Key messages: In 2022, the sales of veterinary antimicrobials for food-producing animals in the EU fell by 28% compared to 2018. The reduction represents progress in reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance in both livestock and people, and protecting key water sources from pollutants.

Consumption and total sales of veterinary antimicrobials in the EU-27, 2018-2022

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) uses annual sales, currently reported to the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) project, to produce a key indicator on the consumption of antimicrobials – including antibiotics – in food-producing animals. This issupported by secondary indicators for specific types of antimicrobials that are particularly important to public health.

​In 2022, the consumption of veterinary antimicrobials by food-producing animals fell by 28% compared to 2018. This equals over half of the 50% reduction target for 2030 under the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy and Zero pollution action plan. Nevertheless, Member States will have to continue taking action in order to further cut consumption of such antimicrobials for farmed animals and aquaculture by another 22%. The total sales of veterinary antimicrobials follow a similar trend during the same period.

The EU’s veterinary medicines law, Regulation (EU) 2019/6, introduced measures to restrict and optimise the use of antimicrobial drugs and make the monitoring of veterinary medicinal products use compulsory. It also requires clear justifications when antimicrobials are administered to animals to prevent diseases. Promoting the prudent use of antibiotics and helping veterinarians identify potential alternatives will further reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance in both livestock and humans.

Cutting down on antimicrobials also comes with advantages for the environment. Some of these substances – such as sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim and miconazole – are included in the European surface water Watch List on pollutants. This list aims to improve available information on substances of greatest concern in important water resources such as streams, rivers and lakes.

Please consult the relevant indicators and signals below for a more comprehensive overview on the topic.

Antimicrobials are a group of medicines that includes antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics. 

Antimicrobials are grouped according to the anatomical therapeutic chemical (ATC) classification for veterinary medicines. This indicator covers the following ATCvet groups:  

  • QA07AA and QA07AB as part of the antidiarrheals, intestinal anti-inflammatory/anti-infective agents; 

  • QG01AA, QG01AE, QG01BA, QG01BE, QG51AA and QG51AG as part of the genitourinary system and sex hormones; 

  • QJ01 and QJ51 as part of the anti-infectives for systemic use; and 

  • QP51AG as part of the antiparasitic products, insecticides, and repellents.  

In the ESVAC data, pills are excluded from the sales data for food-producing animals as they are assumed to be used almost exclusively in pets.  

The population correction unit (PCU) is a denominator to express the total quantities of antimicrobial substance sold relatively to the animal population that could potentially be treated with these in each country. The PCUis calculated for each species and production type. It uses a combination of the number of animals slaughtered, classified as livestock, exported or imported to the EU, and their estimated weight when treated. Using this methodology, 1 PCU equals 1 kg of animal biomass. 


References and footnotes

  1. ECDC, et al., 2017, 'ECDC, EFSA and EMA Joint Scientific Opinion on a list of outcome indicators as regards surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial consumption in humans and food‐producing animals', EFSA Journal 15 (10) (
  2. EC, 2020, COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS - A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system (COM (2020) 381 final of 20 May 2020).
  3. EC, 2021, COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Pathway to a Healthy Planet for All - EU Action Plan: ‘Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil’ (COM (2021) 400 final of 12 May 2021).
  4. EU, 2018, Regulation (EU) 2019/6 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 on veterinary medicinal products and repealing Directive 2001/82/EC (Text with EEA relevance) (O.J L 4, 7.1.2019, pp. 43-167).
  5. Gomez Cortes, L., et al., 2020, Selection of substances for the 3rd Watch List under the Water Framework Directive, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
  6. 2022, Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/1307 of 22 July 2022 establishing a watch list of substances for Union-wide monitoring in the field of water policy pursuant to Directive 2008/105/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (notified under document C(2022) 5098) (Text with EEA relevance) (OJ L 197, 26.7.2022, p. 117–120).
  7. EMA, ESVAC, 2023, Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 31 European countries in 2022, European Medicines Agency, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.