EFSA outlines mitigation measures for AMR spread during animal transit

EUROPE – The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has identified the presence of resistant bacteria in animals before transport as one of the main risk factors contributing to the transmission of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

This is after an assessment requested by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) on the risk of resistant zoonotic bacteria spreading among poultry, pigs, and cattle during transport to other farms or to slaughterhouses.

“Despite available data showing a reduction in antibiotic consumption in recent years, antimicrobial resistance remains a pressing public health issue that needs to be tackled at the global level and across sectors,” said Frank Verdonck, Head of EFSA’s Biological Hazards & Animal Health and Welfare Unit.

Other risk factors that almost certainly contribute to the transmission include increased release of resistant bacteria through faeces, exposure to other animals carrying more or different types of resistant bacteria, insufficient hygiene of vehicles and equipment, and the duration of transport.

Due to unique circumstances including intimate contact with animals from various farms, environmental contamination, and stress, long excursions that necessitate pauses in assembly centers and control posts are linked to higher risks, according to the opinion published by EFSA.

“By identifying the main risk factors, mitigation measures, and research needs in relation to the transport of animals, EFSA’s assessment marks another step forward in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, based on the principle of ‘One Health’, which integrates animal and human risk assessment,” said Verdonck.

The opinion also emphasizes the importance of effective transportation planning.

Additionally, there is a very good chance that the risk of AMR transmission will be decreased by any action that enhances animal health, welfare, and biosecurity before and during transport.

The assessment discovered that minimizing transport duration and thoroughly cleaning vehicles, equipment, and spaces where animals are loaded and unloaded are some of the measures considered effective in reducing the transmission of resistant bacteria during animal transport.

The findings of the opinion support the most current EFSA guidelines for bettering animal welfare while in transit.

Since many microorganisms can be transferred from animals to people, EFSA notes that the influence of the assessment goes beyond animal health and welfare.

“By identifying the main risk factors, mitigation measures, and research needs in relation to the transport of animals, EFSA’s assessment marks another step forward in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, based on the principle of ‘One Health’, which integrates animal and human risk assessment.”

Frank Verdonck, Head of EFSA's Biological Hazards & Animal Health and Welfare Unit Tweet

Treatment of infectious disorders in humans may be hindered if these bacteria develop resistance to antimicrobials.

EFSA points out that there isn’t much specific scientific research on the issue of AMR spreading among animals during transit which led to a number of data gaps during the study. To this end, it suggests specific areas for future research.

EFSA monitors and analyses the situation of AMR in food and animals across Europe. The Authority is assisted by the Network for zoonoses monitoring data, a pan-European network of national representatives and international organizations that assist EFSA by gathering and sharing information on zoonotic diseases in their respective countries.

In June 2017 the Commission adopted the EU One Health Action Plan against AMR, as requested by the Member States in the Council conclusions of 17 June 2016. 

It builds on the 2011 action plan, its evaluation, the feedback received on a European Commission Roadmap on AMR, and public consultation.

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