Global Leaders Group on AMR caution on overuse of antimicrobial drugs in food system

GLOBAL – The Global Leaders Group (GLG) on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) have called for an urgent reduction in the quantity of antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, used in food systems to combat rising levels of drug resistance.

The group was created in November 2020 comprising of heads of state, government ministers, and representatives from the private sector and civil society from 22 countries. Its main objective was to accelerate global political momentum, leadership and action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The GLG reiterated that countries must stop the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs to promote growth in healthy animals.

The call comes ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit which takes place in New York on 23 September 2021 where countries will discuss ways to transform global food systems.

Antimicrobial drugs are also given to animals for veterinary purposes to treat and prevent disease.

Mitigation measures

A top priority is to reduce the use of drugs that are of the greatest importance to treating diseases in humans, animals and plants.

AMR in bacteria can make foodborne infections such as Campylobacter and Salmonella harder to treat. Experts said climate change may also be contributing to an increase in AMR.

As stated in Food Safety News, officials said there had been a substantial fall in antibiotic use in animals globally but further reductions are needed. Without action to reduce levels of antimicrobial use in food systems, the world was heading toward a tipping point where the drugs relied on to treat infections in humans, animals and plants will no longer be effective.

“We cannot tackle rising levels of antimicrobial resistance without using antimicrobial drugs more sparingly across all sectors”

Mia Amor Mottley,Prime Minister of Barbados, Co-Chair of the Global Leaders Group on AMR Tweet

Other key points include reducing the need for antimicrobial drugs by improving infection prevention and control, hygiene, biosecurity and vaccination programs in agriculture and aquaculture, ensuring access to quality and affordable antimicrobials for animal and human health, and promoting innovation to find sustainable alternatives to antimicrobials.

According to experts, consumers can also play a key role by choosing food from producers that use antimicrobial drugs responsibly.

Dire consequences for further delays

On the word of World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the consequences of AMR could dwarf those of COVID-19.

“We need urgent action to win the race against AMR. The longer the world delays, the greater the costs will be, in terms of costs to health systems, costs to food systems, costs to economies, and costs in lives and livelihoods.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO Tweet

He urged the investment in human and animal health, plant, food and environmental eco-systems to properly respond to the growing threat of AMR.

“Many countries have national action plans on AMR but too few are funded for implementation. Countries must be supported to scale-up strategies to prevent infection and to ensure the responsible use of antimicrobials. What makes investing in AMR attractive is the cross-cutting benefits it offers across several sectors.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO Tweet

Inger Anderson, from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said it is time to act on the science and respond rapidly to AMR.

“Already, 700,000 people die each year of resistant infections. There are also serious financial consequences: in the EU alone, AMR costs an estimated €1.5 billion ($1.77 billion) per year in healthcare and productivity costs. With concern over zoonotic diseases at an all-time high, governments can take advantage of the synergies available from tackling emerging disease threats concurrently.”

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