FSA surveillance report finding the mcr-1 gene in imported meat

An antibiotic resistance surveillance report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), published in November 2018, found that although levels of antimicrobial resistant E. coli in UK retail meat remain low, there was an anomaly in the form of an mcr-1 gene found in the imported (non-UK) beef sample, which was reported as likely to be a one-off incident.

This is consistent with the findings of other recent UK surveillance which has found that the number and levels of antibiotic-resistant isolates is not increasing, or is even reducing in some areas, despite the complexity of the relationship between antibiotic use and the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, isolation of a colistin-resistant organism does not mean that colistin has been used in that animal, this finding has given all sectors an opportunity to review current tight measures regarding use of Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HP-CIAs).

All veterinary organisations covering the main farm animal species in the UK have restricted use of colistin to absolute last resort or eliminated its use completely over the past three years. Regarding the specific situation in cattle, the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) issued guidance in January 2017 that colistin should only be used as last resort when no other options remain to safeguard animal welfare, and once sensitivity testing has been carried out.

Further safeguards are in place through Red Tractor, which covers 85% of UK beef production, stating that HP-CIAs for the beef, lamb and dairy sectors must only used as a last resort under veterinary direction alongside sensitivity and/or diagnostic testing.

For context, sales of colistin in UK farm animals have fallen 99% since 2013, and negligible amounts are now used in UK farming.

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