EC action plan to address antimicrobial resistance in food supply chain

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a growing threat that is responsible for 25,000 deaths and a loss of €1.5 billion in the EU every year. ©iStock
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a growing threat that is responsible for 25,000 deaths and a loss of €1.5 billion in the EU every year. ©iStock

Related tags: European union

The European Commission is to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in the food supply chain with the adoption of a new action plan. 

The report entitled: ‘A European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR),’​ sets out a series of directives that call for a co-ordinated approach from EU member states.

Contributions from 22 stakeholders and the public have resulted in the creation of a roadmap built on three pillar objectives.

These are the commitments to make the EU a best practice region with better evidence, co-ordination and surveillance, and control measures implemented in Member States.

Research and development are also set to receive a boost with science-based policies and legal measures to combat AMR made a priority.

The Commission will also work with Member States and industry, including small and medium enterprises, to address AMR in bacteria, fungi and parasites.

The EU will also work towards reinforcing engagement and collaboration with multilateral organisations, and intensifying cooperation with the most affected developing countries.

“As one of the largest markets for agricultural products, the EU can play a major role by promoting its standards and measures for addressing AMR with its trade partners,” ​the EC outlined.

Factors such as inappropriate use of antimicrobials in humans, poor hygiene conditions and practices in the food chain facilitate the transmission of resistant microorganisms.

Over time, this makes antimicrobials less effective and ultimately useless.

Food supply chain focus

With the food chain playing such a huge part in AMR, specific attention has been made to understand the scale of the problem, identify trends and evaluate policies and set priorities.

These include the review of legislation on monitoring AMR in bacteria in farm animals and food, to take into account new scientific developments and data collection needs.

The commission will also make increased use of the EU Health Security Committee and the Commission Working Group on AMR in food areas to strengthen coordination.

Measures to assist in the development of AMR strategies in the areas of food safety through regional training workshops on AMR will also be introduced.

"Antimicrobial Resistance is a global growing threat, and if we do not step up our action and commitment now, by 2050 it could cause more deaths than cancer,”​ said Vytenis Andriukaitis, commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

“The ambitious agenda I present today focuses actions on key areas with the highest added value for EU countries.”

BEUC response

Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at the Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC), a group that represents the interests of European consumers, welcomed the renewed commitment in tackling AMR but urged the EC to take further action.

“All EU Member States must swiftly develop strategies to tackle AMR in their country if they have not done so yet. Some countries are still lagging behind on the fight against AMR from farming. Sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals were 36 times higher in Spain than in Sweden in 2014 .

“The EU should stop importing food that does not meet the requirements for farm antibiotic use that apply to EU farmers. It is the most effective way for the EU to push the rest of the world to follow its lead on AMR.

“We hope the release of the Action Plan will give new impetus to Council’s discussions on the veterinary medicines and medicated feed law proposals. It is high time we move forward with these much-needed laws that can make a real difference in tackling AMR. But to do so, EU governments must back the European Parliament and support an EU ban on the routine preventive use of farm antibiotics.”

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