GLOBAL – The Codex Alimentarius Commission has updated the Code of Practice and Guidance on the management of foodborne antimicrobial resistance (AMR) incorporating them into the ‘food code’ to help protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

The field of antimicrobial resistance is one of the areas where new knowledge is emerging at a very fast pace. The updated document was modified to become more inclusive with regard to all food production processes.

It takes into account the improved knowledge about mitigation and prevention measures throughout the whole food system, in a One Health approach, and provides new insights about the most effective policy measures.

Over the course of four years, the Ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance (TFAMR) developed science-based guidance on the management of foodborne antimicrobial resistance, reviewing and revising the Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance (originally adopted in 2005) and developing Guidance on Integrated Monitoring and Surveillance of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most critical public health issues that needs the world’s attention. Measures to combat the increase in AMR are essential for human health, animal health, plant health, and the health of the environment alike.

These newly developed guidance documents will help all stakeholders in the fight against AMR, specifically in ensuring that all food safety policies will encompass suitable measures to combat foodborne AMR, making food and food production safer for all consumers and the environment.

“The adoption of this guidance document by the Codex Alimentarius Commission is a truly amazing achievement, demonstrating the willingness of Codex Members and Observer organizations to find common ground, to develop the consensus necessary to address jointly one of the most urgent public health crises that is currently threatening human, animal and plant health,” Markus Lipp, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer.

He noted that the adoption of this standard highlights a recognition of the importance of collecting data on foodborne AMR and antimicrobial use in food systems so that they are able to implement measures to address AMR where they can be most effective, and contribute data from the food safety side to facilitate a truly One Health approach to AMR. 

Markus added that for consumers, this new guidance document will mean that they can trust that their national governments have the internationally, science-based tools available to develop national policies and action plans with regard to combatting AMR that will allow a suitable protection of human health, access to international trade and respecting the needs and rights of farmers and consumers alike.

New guidelines requirements

In line with the new guidelines, foodborne AMR risk management measures should be implemented in a way that is proportionate to the risk and reviewed on a regular basis as described in the Guidelines for Risk Analysis of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance. Risk managers should consider potential unintended consequences to humans, animal, and plant health of recommended risk management measures.

It states that the WHO List of Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine, the OIE List of Antimicrobial Agents of Veterinary Importance, or national lists, where available, should be considered when setting priorities for risk assessment and risk management to minimize and contain antimicrobial resistance.

The lists should be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary when supported by scientific findings as new scientific data emerges on resistance patterns.

The guidelines also recommend that advertising and promotion of antimicrobial agents should be done in a manner consistent with specific regulatory recommendations for the product. The competent authorities should assess the potential of medically important antimicrobial agents used along the food chain to select for foodborne AMR.

Over and above, the update roots for alternative tools such as biosecurity, appropriate nutrition, vaccination, animal and plant/crop best management practices, where appropriate, and that have been proven to be efficacious and safe, to reduce the need for use of antimicrobial agents

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