GLOBAL – In a striking revelation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has unveiled a chilling publication that sheds light on the looming economic catastrophe posed by foodborne antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

While antimicrobials are hailed as lifesaving treatments for infections in humans, animals, and plants, their overuse is now unraveling a grave paradox, as the emergence of resistant organisms renders infections increasingly difficult to treat.

Jeffrey LeJeune, FAO Food Safety Officer, likens this dire situation to a “tragedy of the commons,” where individual benefits from antimicrobial use inadvertently inflict severe consequences on society as a whole.

The publication underscores that foodborne AMR doesn’t just inflate healthcare costs but also wreaks havoc on food production, causing a ripple effect that impacts entire economies.

Diletta Topazio, FAO Food Systems and Food Safety Division Economist, reveals the hidden economic toll of foodborne AMR.

The frequency and duration of illnesses caused by AMR-contaminated food increase the burden on public health systems, resulting in productivity losses and premature deaths.

Shockingly, each non-Typhoidal Salmonella (NTS) case caused by AMR leads to an estimated economic value of USD 10 million.

In 2019 alone, over 5,000 individuals worldwide lost their lives due to NTS infections resistant to antimicrobials, translating to a staggering burden of USD 50 billion. This figure accounts for only one of over 30 pathogens responsible for antimicrobial-resistant foodborne diseases, illustrating the extensive and alarming scope of the problem.

Peril to economic growth, planet

LeJeune emphasizes the far-reaching ramifications of foodborne AMR, extending beyond immediate health threats.

He asserts that it imperils the very fabric of economic growth and jeopardizes the well-being of our planet. If left unchecked, this silent threat could stifle global prosperity and jeopardize the future of sustainable food systems.

As the world grapples with the economic fallout of foodborne AMR, the FAO publication puts forth essential policy recommendations to mitigate the crisis.

Governments are urged to develop and promote policies that minimize and control AMR in agrifood systems, bolster food control mechanisms, and champion food producers who adopt antimicrobial use stewardship practices.

Furthermore, the publication calls for a comprehensive integrated surveillance system that collects, analyzes, and shares data on AMR in food products to inform strategic interventions and foster global cooperation.

A wake-up call for humanity

As we delve deeper into the digital age and marvel at technological advancements, the FAO publication serves as a stark reminder that some of the most profound threats are the silent ones, lurking in our food systems.

Foodborne AMR demands immediate attention, cooperative action, and global solidarity to avert the impending economic crisis and preserve the well-being of future generations.

In the face of this challenge, the world must unite to strike a balance between the benefits of antimicrobial use and the preservation of a resilient, sustainable, and prosperous future for all.

For the sake of our economies, our communities, and our planet, it is imperative to heed the call and act decisively to counter the rising tide of foodborne antimicrobial resistance.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.