Role played by the environment in the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through the food chain

  18 June 2021

The role of food‐producing environments in the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in EU plant‐based food production, terrestrial animals (poultry, cattle and pigs) and aquaculture was assessed. Among the various sources and transmission routes identified, fertilisers of faecal origin, irrigation and surface water for plant‐based food and water for aquaculture were considered of major importance. For terrestrial animal production, potential sources consist of feed, humans, water, air/dust, soil, wildlife, rodents, arthropods and equipment. Among those, evidence was found for introduction with feed and humans, for the other sources, the importance could not be assessed. Several ARB of highest priority for public health, such as carbapenem or extended‐spectrum cephalosporin and/or fluoroquinolone‐resistant Enterobacterales (including Salmonella enterica), fluoroquinolone‐resistant Campylobacter spp., methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus and glycopeptide‐resistant Enterococcus faecium and E. faecalis were identified. Among highest priority ARGs blaCTX‐M, blaVIM, blaNDM, blaOXA‐48-like, blaOXA‐23, mcr, armA, vanA, cfr and optrA were reported. These highest priority bacteria and genes were identified in different sources, at primary and post‐harvest level, particularly faeces/manure, soil and water. For all sectors, reducing the occurrence of faecal microbial contamination of fertilisers, water, feed and the production environment and minimising persistence/recycling of ARB within animal production facilities is a priority. Proper implementation of good hygiene practices, biosecurity and food safety management systems is very important. Potential AMR‐specific interventions are in the early stages of development. Many data gaps relating to sources and relevance of transmission routes, diversity of ARB and ARGs, effectiveness of mitigation measures were identified. Representative epidemiological and attribution studies on AMR and its effective control in food production environments at EU level, linked to One Health and environmental initiatives, are urgently required.


Further reading: EFSA
Author(s): Konstantinos Koutsoumanis, Ana Allende, Avelino Álvarez‐Ordóñez, Declan Bolton, Sara Bover‐Cid, Marianne Chemaly, Robert Davies, Alessandra De Cesare, Lieve Herman, Friederike Hilbert, Roland Lindqvist, Maarten Nauta, Luisa Peixe, Giuseppe Ru, Marion Simmons, Panagiotis Skandamis and Elisabetta Suffredini.
Secure Foods  


Unrestricted financial support by:


Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition

Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre



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