Antimicrobial Resistance

New work underway by Codex Alimentarius on surveillance and code of practice for foodborne antimicrobial resistance


New work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was approved by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) at its 40th Session in Geneva 17 to 22 July 2017. The Commission agreed to developing Guidance on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance, and revising its 2005 Code of Practice to Minimise and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance.

The Codex Alimentarius works to protect consumer health and ensure fair food trade practices and is a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

FAO, together with its tripartite colleagues in WHO and OIE, updated member countries on their ongoing and future work on AMR during the Commission and at a special AMR side event on 17th July.

Dr Sarah Cahill, a member of FAO’s AMR Working Group and panellist at the AMR side event explained that FAO is working on strengthening governance by providing technical feedback on animal and plant health legislation and guidelines to support capacity development for AMR management at the country level. She also informed delegates that legal information on AMR is being included in FAOLEX (one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive legislative and policy databases on food, agriculture and natural resources management). She also stressed the importance of sharing good practices in food control and agriculture production systems.

Speakers highlighted the need for new data in addition to the existing information on foodborne AMR to support the new Codex work. A call for data will be issued next month and countries are urged to make every effort to respond to this request for new data on AMR to inform the Guidance and Code of Practice.

Professor Yong Ho Park from the Republic of Korea and chairperson of the ad hoc Codex Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance also invited members to join the task force in its deliberations at Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea on 27 November to 1 December 2017.  This meeting will afford an opportunity for countries to directly participate in the development of global guidance and standards related to AMR, ensuring that this work takes into consideration their needs and challenges.  

There is widespread agreement on the cause of antimicrobial resistance. Scientists and public authorities acknowledge that overuse and abuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs – in agriculture and in modern medicine – are the culprit.

Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, occurs when pathogens no longer respond to the substances used to control them because the pathogens have become immune to these treatments. As drugs become less effective, AMR affects human and animal health, leading to more severe illnesses and an estimated 700,000 human deaths every year.

FAO cautions that antimicrobial resistance causes production losses that can lead to food insecurity, and the misuse of antimicrobial drugs results in unsafe and contaminated foods, and pollutes soil and water with drug residues and resistant microbes.

These resistant microbes can spread across borders, through the food chain, between people and animals, and in the environment, necessitating better management practices within and across sectors and countries.

Dr Sarah Cahill comments that, “Addressing AMR requires multisectoral collaboration through a ‘One Health’ approach.

“FAO’s ongoing work to engage stakeholders worldwide in the food and agriculture sector is key to improve awareness and strengthen commitment to address AMR. This is one of the pillars of FAO’s AMR Action Plan.

“We are also working to develop capacity for surveillance and monitoring of AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) in food and agriculture.

“And to strengthen governance, it is vital that we clarify and promote good practices in food safety and agricultural production systems. This means continuing to develop partnerships with producers and industry.”


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