The Antibiotic Criteria

The Antibiotic Criteria is a tool for the food industry to set and follow up on requirements from suppliers of meat, dairy products, and seafood regarding antibiotic use and animal welfare. There are 8 criteria in the Antibiotic Criteria list, addressing both direct antibiotic use and preventive interventions that can lead to reduced antibiotic use. For each criterion, there are associated questions to use for supplier dialogue and follow-ups.

There is a clear link between sub-standard animal husbandry and an extensive use of antibiotics. Photo: iStock

There is a clear link between sub-standard animal husbandry and an extensive use of antibiotics. Photo: iStock

The antibiotic criteria are a concrete tool for purchasers in the dialogue with suppliers. We hope that it will lead to decreased use of antibiotics in food production, improved animal welfare, and reduced development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

– Maria Smith, Secretary-General, Axfoundation

Criteria for reduced, direct antibiotic use

  1. Antibiotics must not be used for growth promotion purposes.
  2. Antibiotics must only be used following the prescription by the veterinarian and must be approved for use in animal livestock in accordance with Codex.
  3. There must be detailed documentation of all the use of antibiotics, including via feed and water. The responsible veterinarian must regularly review and sign the documentation. Data on the use of antibiotics should be available on request from the actors in the supply chain.
  4. If recurrent antibiotics are used for all, or the majority of, an age-specific category of animals, the reasons for this must be documented, an investigation must be carried out by a veterinarian and an action program to counteract the health problems must be developed and applied. The goal is to phase out recurring use.
  5. Colistin, fluoroquinolones and third- or fourth-generation cephalosporins – antibiotics that are particularly important for human care, must only be used when a veterinarian deems that no other treatment options are effective.

Criteria for preventive, indirect interventions that can lead to reduced antibiotic use

  1. For active work with reduced antibiotic use in the herd/facility, a plan with routines for preventive health care and reduced spread of infection must exist and be followed. The plan shall focus on strategic preventive animal health management, including infection control and animal welfare (see full document for what the plan must include).
  2. Animals must not be mutilated because of inadequate animal husbandry.
  3. Animals must be kept in a way that gives them space to move freely and be able to rest in a way that is suitable for them.

Download the Antibiotic Criteria 2.0 and associated questionnaire

The Antibiotic Criteria 2.0

Axfoundation’s criteria 2.0 go beyond legislation and were strengthened in, primarily, four key areas:

  • Limiting the use of antibiotics especially important for human health care.
  • Clarified animal welfare criteria regarding animals in cages and mutilation of animals. The list has also been developed with criteria relating to routines for preventive animal welfare work.
  • Improved questionnaire that companies can use in dialogue with their suppliers, including clearer recommendations for follow-up.
  • Seafood is now included and both the criteria and the questionnaire are adapted.

Today, Axfoundation works to spread the Antibiotic Criteria 2.0 among Swedish food retailers and food service, to national and international bodies and to authorities to achieve transformative change.


actors and key experts were involved in developing the criteria 2.0 as it launched in 2020.


strengthened criteria are the result of the broad collaboration.


companies within retail and food service use the Antibiotic Criteria v.1.0. Axfoundation is now aiming for even more actors to adopt version 2.0.

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