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Research project

Critical review of AMR risks arising as a consequence of using biocides and certain heavy metals in food animal production

This review will help increase our understanding of whether, and to what extent the use of biocides and heavy metals in animal production leads to the development and spread of AMR within the food chain and whether this could potentially lead to greater consumer exposure to AMR bacteria from food.

Last updated: 14 October 2022


Biocides and heavy metals are widely used in animal production to control infection and microbial contamination as well as nutritional additives in animal feed. Some biocides and heavy metals used in animal husbandry are able to persist and concentrate in the environment, remaining stable for prolonged periods. It is a concern that bacteria can exhibit resistance to these chemical and metal elements. These biocidal substances, along with AMR bacteria may be introduced into soil and water through the different waste streams of farming. There is also some evidence that there is a trend in animal derived AMR isolates caused by biocide resistance being observed in human clinical isolates. Whilst there is some evidence that AMR may arise from the use of some biocides and heavy metals in animal production, this remains an area of uncertainty. 

Objective & approach 

Given that the FSA has made a commitment to strengthen the evidence around AMR and the food chain within the 2019-2024 AMR National Action Plan, we are funding a broad critical review of the scientific literature to address this evidence gap around the development of AMR arising from the use and accumulation of biocides and heavy metals in food animal production.  Specifically, the review question is “Do biocides and/or heavy metals used in food animal production have an impact on the development of AMR in the food chain?”

This study will consist of 5 phases which are:

  • To carry out a structured literature search of appropriate databases and sources to compile a broad data set of  potentially relevant articles pertaining to the impact of biocides and/or heavy metals used in food animal production (literature review).
  • To screen the compiled data set of potentially relevant articles and select articles for data extraction (Article screening).
  • To extract, and analyse, pertinent data from articles that have been selected (Data extraction and analysis).
  • To synthesise the extracted data from articles into a formal review final report to establish what existing data and understanding there is, what data gaps remain and provide recommendations for further work (data synthesis and review completion).
  • To disseminate the findings of the project to key stakeholders to inform them of the impact of biocides and/or heavy metals used in food animal production on the development of AMR and where further work is required (Dissemination).

Relevant stakeholders include: 

DEFRA, Environment Agency, VMD, APHA, UKHSA, DHSC, Academia, ACMSF working group on AMR, other scientific committees, consumers, food industry, farming industry.

The results from the project will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders by: 

  • A fully accessible final report will be published on the FSA’s website (
  • Presentation of the study to be provided at the FSA’s AMR Research & Evidence Programme Review on 8th and 9th November 2022.
  • Presentation of key findings from the study to be given to the ACMSF working group on AMR in early 2023 (either in January or February 2023).