Response to new report from the Food Standards Agency released 21 September 2016

In response to the release of a new report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) outlining test results for resistant bacteria in food, Gwyn Jones, Chair of RUMA, says:

Test results such as these build a better picture of the challenges we all face across human and veterinary medicine.

Good kitchen hygiene, washing hands after handling raw meat and thorough cooking, as advised by the FSA, remain the most reliable ways of preventing the spread of any harmful bacteria.

This is important as these test results underline the complexity of the problem we face. Bacteria naturally ‘dodge’ antibiotics – it’s why we find resistant bacteria millions of years old in the ice caps and in frozen remains of woolly mammoths.

Here, some campylobacter and E.coli have developed resistance to antibiotics rarely used in broiler (chicken) production, in this case fluoroquinolones, as confirmed by sales and use data.

We saw this phenomenon in a study earlier this month from University of Cambridge where the greatest level of resistance was to cephalosporins, which the poultry industry has itself banned since 2012.

So as the focus on recording and reducing use in agriculture without impacting welfare continues with the whole industry’s engagement, we hope testing and research will start to throw light on how to overcome this complex challenge for humans as well as animals.

While a number of studies suggest the risk of resistant bacteria passing from animal to man is exceptionally low, a robust review of the science would also help us understand any links.