Experts fear rising resistance to antibiotics

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food poisoning, Antibiotic resistance, Salmonella

Concern is rising about the increasing number of cases of food poisoning, which some experts fear are becoming resistant to treatment because of the...

Concern is rising about the increasing number of cases of food poisoning, which some experts fear are becoming resistant to treatment because of the over-use of antimicrobial agents and antibiotics in the food chain.

The Food Commission, which campaigns for healthier and safer UK food, has claimed that farm antibiotic use is contributing to the problem of antibiotic resistance in food poisoning infections, such as Salmonella​ and Campylobacter​.

It is concerned about what it considers to be excessive use of antibiotics in the UK each year, which are given to farm animals, often to control disease where intensive stocking of animals is the norm.

Richard Young, an organic farmer and policy adviser to the Soil Association, argues in the latest issue of The Food Magazine​ published by the Food Commission that over-reliance on antibiotics in farming is also increasing the number of other serious infections in humans which fail to respond to most antibiotics.

“No one wants to stop farmers using antibiotics when they are genuinely needed,” said Young. “However, there are a number of very serious problems now developing and the evidence increasingly suggests that food is part of the problem. As such, we need an urgent review of the overall situation with clear recommendations to prevent an impending crisis.”

Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has begun to look at the potential biological hazard caused by foodborne antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a field in which it admitted hard research data was limited.

In a scientific opinion issued recently EFSA stated: “Foodborne bacteria, including known pathogens and commensal bacteria, display an increasing, extensive and diverse range of resistance to antimicrobial agents of human and veterinary importance, and any further spread of resistance among bacteria in foods is likely to have an influence on human exposure.”

It went on to say: “In all cases where antimicrobial treatment in humans is indicated, resistance to the antimicrobials of choice is of clinical importance.

“Resistant Salmonella​ and Campylobacter​ involved in human disease are mostly spread through foods. With regard to Salmonella​, contaminated poultry meat, eggs, pork and beef are prominent in this regard. For Campylobacter​, contaminated poultry meat is prominent.”

It added: “Animal-derived products remain a potential source of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus​ (MRSA). Food-associated MRSA, therefore, may be an emerging problem.”

In a separate incident, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) last week released details about an outbreak of Salmonella Agona​ in the UK and Ireland. While the FSA claimed the source of this outbreak was not yet known, press reports suggested it might be linked to meat and poultry products.

At present, about 80 cases of illness caused by this type of salmonella have been reported in the UK affecting all ages, but predominantly young adults.

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