Survey of antimicrobial resistance in the food supply

Friday, 18 November, 2022

Survey of antimicrobial resistance in the food supply

The federal government has begun a nationwide survey of antimicrobial resistance in Australia’s food supply to protect Australians against the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance of bacteria, viruses and fungi to antimicrobial or antibiotic medicines.

Described as a ‘silent pandemic’, antimicrobial resistance is one of the World Health Organization’s top 10 global public health threats. Common infections can become untreatable, leading to longer hospital stays and higher death rates.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, together with state and territory regulators, has begun sampling of retail beef, pork and poultry products as part of a national strategy to minimise the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney MP, said, “This is about reducing the risk of people being sicker for longer, the pressure that creates on our health system and the increased risk of dying from an infection that has tragically turned untreatable.”

This is the first national surveillance of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in retail food since 2007. It will help to gauge the scale of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in select retail foods, while also identifying emerging threats to our medicine cabinet of antimicrobials.

The survey will run until mid-2023, supporting Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and beyond. The strategy provides a national approach to protecting Australian health and our environment through minimising the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance, while also ensuring that effective antimicrobials are available or in development.

“We know this is becoming an increasing global problem, with antibiotics losing their effectiveness and new solutions not being developed fast enough. This is a part of the puzzle to ensure we’re prepared to protect the health of Australians now and into the future,” Kearney said.

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