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.

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.

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

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

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