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A critical review of the impact of food processing on antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria in meats and meat products


Tackling AMR is a high priority area for the UK government as well as a concern worldwide, and until recently AMR research has largely focused on farm animal and human health. There is relatively little knowledge on the impact that secondary food processing has on AMR. This critical review will help to inform risk assessments by providing evidence for how processing impacts on the presence of AMR bacteria in meat and meat products, as well as help identify more accurately the knowledge gaps that currently exist.  This was a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) ‘Task and Finish’ Group.

Objective and Approach

The aim of this study is to provide insight into the impact that established and novel secondary meat processes have on AMR bacteria and the impact on the transfer of antimicrobial resistance genes (AMG). Included in this is a consideration of bacterial stress responses and the use of sub-lethal food processing technologies and the potential transfer of resistance genes.

A critical review of the peer reviewed and grey literature relating to AMR bacterial populations and the spread of genetic materials conferring AMR in association with meat after secondary processing, will be undertaken. This review will consider a range of processing steps, processing interactions with plasmid conjugation and phage activity, as well as other aspects of genome plasticity, such as survival of extracellular genetic material which could give rise to new AMR. The review will also take into consideration both pathogenic and commensal AMR bacteria. 

The review will use systematic searching to identify publications which will then be critically appraised by two reviewers using an assessment questionnaire.  Source databases to be searched will primarily be the Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson-Reuters) Web of Science and Pubmed databases. The study will consider the opinion of multiple reviewers and  there will be statistical analyses of the data collected to ensure consistency of theses assessments.

This review is addressing a key recommendation from the ACMSF 'Task and Finish' Group and will feed into the UK cross-government AMR strategy by providing useful information on the role meat processing plays in the development and spread of AMR bacteria. It is anticipated that this review will help to identify where future surveillance and research activities are needed, which will inform public health by providing further knowledge of the presence and potential transfer of AMR.