Urgency along the food supply chain
Frequent use or over use of antibiotics comes with its drawbacks. Over time, bacterial microbes naturally develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – resistance to the antibiotics.
Bacteria which should be suppressed by the antibiotics outlive the drugs and are then passed on to consumers through the food supply chain. This happens in two ways: firstly, drug-resistant bacteria can remain on meat from animals and seafood. The bacteria can be passed on to consumers when the food is not cooked properly. Secondly, fertilizer or water contaminated with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria from animal feces can be used on crops – which are then harvested and consumed by people.
AMR poses a great threat to human health. Globalisation of food exacerbates the issue as everyone is susceptible to the risks of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, which knows no geographical boundaries.
In the absence of antibiotics, these bacteria can cause infection and humans die easily without treatment. Even with antibiotics, the rise of AMR has rendered some treatments against disease-causing organisms ineffective. When medicines start to lose their efficacy in treating common bacterial infections, it could prove fatal for humans. It is estimated that 700,000 deaths globally could be attributed to AMR this year, and a projected 10 million deaths in the next 35 years.
The global concern for AMR is escalating so quickly that the European Union and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have joined forces to tackle the situation.
To ensure food safety for consumers while supporting stakeholders to move towards the responsible use of antimicrobials in agriculture, the FAO has put together an AMR action plan 2016-2020.
One crucial approach is the responsible use of antibiotics. This is key to reversing the trend of AMR-related deaths in the next few decades. Are food producers aware of proper antibiotics usage? Can we help food producers identify the most crucial stage of the supply chain to administer antibiotics?
“As an organisation offering end-to-end food safety solutions across the entire supply chain, we can raise awareness for prudent and responsible use of antibiotics amongst stakeholders. We can also ensure up to date regulatory, standards and guidelines information,” says Dr. Ron Wacker, Global Business Unit Manager Food, Health & Beauty at TÜV SÜD.