Statement on how to interpret the QPS qualification on ‘acquired antimicrobial resistance genes’

  02 November 2023

The qualified presumption of safety (QPS) approach was developed to provide a regularly updated generic pre‐evaluation of the safety of microorganisms intended for use in the food or feed chains. Safety concerns identified for a taxonomic unit (TU) are, where possible, confirmed at the species/strain or product level and reflected by ‘qualifications’ which should be assessed at strain and/or product level by EFSA’s Scientific Panels. The generic qualification ‘the strains should not harbour any acquired antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes to clinically relevant antimicrobials’ applies to all QPS bacterial TUs. The different EFSA risk assessment areas use the same approach to assess the qualification related to AMR genes. In this statement, the terms ‘intrinsic’ and ‘acquired’ AMR genes were defined for the purpose of EFSA’s risk assessments, and they apply to bacteria used in the food and feed chains. A bioinformatic approach is proposed for demonstrating the ‘intrinsic’/’acquired’ nature of an AMR gene. All AMR genes that confer resistance towards ‘critically important’, ‘highly important’ and ‘important’ antimicrobials, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), found as hits, need to be considered as hazards (for humans, animals and environment) and need further assessment. Genes identified as responsible for ‘intrinsic’ resistance could be considered as being of no concern in the frame of the EFSA risk assessment. ‘Acquired’ AMR genes resulting in a resistant phenotype should be considered as a concern. If the presence of the ‘acquired’ AMR gene is not leading to phenotypic resistance, further case‐by‐case assessment is necessary.

Further reading: EFSA Journal
Author(s): EFSA
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