Scientists at the RVC have recommended new surveillance programmes need to be developed to identify the degree of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) present in UK food at retail level in the face of paucity of hard data.

steak-1755526_1920The call comes after the college was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to conduct a systematic review to assess the significance of the food chain in the context of AMR, with particular reference to pork and poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce on retail sale in the UK.

The aim of the study was to appraise and summarise existing evidence of prevalence and patterns of resistance to critically important antimicrobials (CIAs) in specific food-borne zoonotic pathogens and indicator commensal bacteria, from both domestically produced and imported foods at retail level that could result in the exposure of British consumers.

Review of studies

In association with scientists from the Swiss animal health and food safety consultancy SAFOSO, a review was conducted of scientific and grey literature published between 1999 and the end of May 2016, with a total of 304 studies.

Eligible studies were available from 58 different countries. For the UK, 15 studies were  identified; from those, 8 were original articles, 5 were targeted surveys conducted by the FSA and 2 were surveillance reports that assessed occurrence of AMR in food-borne pathogens (Salmonella species and Campylobacter species) and commensal bacteria in pork and poultry meat.

‘Paucity of data’

The authors reported: “There was a paucity of AMR data for domestically produced food in the UK. Also, the lack of surveillance data (apart from those available through the surveillance reports of the European Food Safety Authority [EFSA]) did not allow the detection of trends in AMR in food in the UK; such data would be relevant for risk assessment of exposure of British consumers.

“The targeted FSA retail surveys conducted since 2001 provide ‘snapshots’ of AMR in relevant food-borne pathogens in red meat and poultry meat. There is, nevertheless, a lack of AMR data on commensal bacteria in food at retail level in the UK.”

They concluded: “This review confirmed there is a lack of AMR prevalence data for British-produced food and, to a lesser extent, in countries that export food to the UK, with a notable exception of certain major food-exporting countries in northern Europe.”

It continued: “Efforts should be made to develop surveillance programmes that will identify trends in the occurrence of AMR in foods and thereby provide a framework for assessing potential risks associated with exposure to such hazards among British consumers.”

  • Read more about the FSA/RVC review, or see the full story in Veterinary Times VT46.49
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