Denmark can measure the impact of antibiotics use in pigs and report it annually, explains Jim McKean, Extension Swine Veterinarian at Iowa State University.  Although growth promotants aren’t used, there is a steady rise in the use of prescribed veterinary antimicrobials. Danish pork producers became concerned about this trend, but they had sick animals and they needed to treat them. About three years ago,the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration implemented the Yellow Card system.

In Denmark, all animal antimicrobial products must be purchased through pharmacies andveterinarians write the scripts. In addition, feed mills provide reports on all the medicated feed produced, including how much, and where it goes, along with the diagnosis for its use.

“The Danes have a huge database from which they can draw,” says McKean. “If you get a ‘Yellow Card,’ it means you’re outside of a set limit in your operation. You’ll have increased scrutiny and the information will be publicized in the local newspaper. If, after nine months your status hasn’t improved, you’ll be under increased scrutiny. A second veterinarian will come in, and if you don’t have changes after five more months, you then get a red card, and the government can reduce the number of animals you produce. The idea is that under the yellow card, the veterinarian limits the prescriptions and you get unannounced visits. The goal for every Danish pork producer is to stay below this threshold.”

McKean explains that antimicrobial use pressures in the European Union are based on what individual member-countries have done. For example, Germany implemented a central reporting system in 2012 with the goal to reduce animal drug use. The EU Medicines Authority wants to establish a standardized national system for drug use collection but there are considerable variations and it is a work-in-progress.