The World Health Organisation is urging the food industry to stop using antibiotics to boost growth in healthy animals.
The agency has published new guidelines aimed at curbing human resistance to such medicines.
The WHO found that in some countries, 80 per cent of all the antibiotics end up as growth-promotion medication in the animal sector.
The over-medication of animals further raises the existing threat of antibiotic resistance, which has advanced to a stage where there are no more medications to treat some types of bacteria.
“A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak,’’ WHO Chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said on Tuesday.
In its updated guidelines, WHO says that animals that are reared for their meat, milk or eggs should only be treated with antibiotics if they are actually sick, or if there is an infection among their herd, flock or shoal.
Instead of medicines, farmers should prevent disease by improving hygiene, through vaccinations, WHO recommends.
It comes as a new report reveals some of the worst offenders in Europe.
The seventh annual report of the European Medicines Agency looked at the sale of antibiotics for animals in 30 European countries in 2015.
It found Bulgaria to have one of the highest levels, with on average 121 milligrams of antibiotics found in 1 kilo of meat, placing the country at eighth in Europe for use of antibiotics.
“There is no immediate danger. No one is going to get a stomach ache because there are residual antibiotics in the meat.“said Bogomil Nikolov, CEO of the Bulgarian Active Consumers National Association.
“The question is whether in 20 years, if I get sick, there will not be an antibiotic that can help me and I say – yes, it is a possibility, and the risk is very real.”
Meat from Norway was found to contain the least amount of antibiotics at just 2 mg per 1 kg. Iceland followed with 5mg and 12mg in Sweden.