FSA publishes review of antimicrobial resistance evidence

Last updated:
25 November 2016
AMR contaminated icon
The FSA has today published a systematic review of the available evidence on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in food. The review looked at research on the presence of AMR in bacteria in a number of different foods sold at retail.

The research has confirmed the need for extra surveillance of AMR in food at retail level, to support the wider programme of work currently underway across government to help reduce levels of AMR.

The AMR review was produced by the Royal Veterinary College, on behalf of the Food Standards Agency, and looked at the areas where consumers are more likely to be exposed to AMR in bacteria from the food chain. Researchers examined published evidence between 1999 and 2016 for pork and poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce sold in shops.

The research has been released ahead of next week’s (29 November to 2 December) Codex Alimentarius working group on AMR. Codex Alimentarius is the global food standards body, which at its plenary meeting this summer decided to re-commence work on AMR. The working group has been organised by the FSA and will be held in London and chaired by the UK, USA and Australia. It is the first step in this new work, and will set terms of reference for the intergovernmental task force that will follow.

The FSA’s role in tackling AMR

The Government response to Lord O’Neill’s Review on AMR was published last month and gives a commitment to work nationally and internationally to meet the significant threat that AMR poses to global health, prosperity and security.

The FSA is working closely with other government departments to try and reduce levels of AMR.

FSA action includes:

  • Working to encourage the adoption of clear transparent reporting standards that help consumers have access to and understand information about the responsible use of antibiotics in the food chain. 
  • Continued focus on improving the scientific evidence base relating to antimicrobial resistance in the food chain through supporting relevant research and improving surveillance. 
  • Setting up an independent group to advise us on responsible use of antibiotics in agriculture to support the above work.
The science behind the story: 

What is AMR?

AMR is the ability of a microbe to withstand the effects of the antimicrobials. Antimicrobials are the drugs used to treat them, like antibiotics and antivirals. To have this ability, the microbe must have antimicrobial resistance genes (AMR genes). Microbes may be resistant to just one antimicrobial or to many (multi-resistant) depending on which AMR genes they have. This can make infections by these microbes difficult to treat, causing infections to persist.

Facts about AMR