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FAO News Item, 24 August 2021
Urgent reduction in the amounts of antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, used in food systems is critical to combat rising levels of drug resistance.
The Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance today called upon all countries to significantly reduce the levels of antimicrobial drugs used in global food systems. This includes stopping the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs to promote growth in healthy animals and using antimicrobial drugs more sparingly overall.
The call comes ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit which takes place in New York on 23 September 2021 where countries will discuss ways to transform global food systems.
The Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance includes heads of state, government ministers, and leaders from private sector and civil society from 22 countries. The group was established in November 2020 to accelerate global political momentum, leadership and action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and is co-chaired by Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Reducing the use of antimicrobials in food systems is key to conserving their effectiveness
The Global Leaders Group's statement calls for bold action from all countries and leaders across sectors to tackle drug resistance.
A top priority call to action is to use antimicrobial drugs more sparingly in food systems and markedly reduce the use of drugs that are of greatest importance to treating diseases in humans, animals and plants.
Other key calls to action for all countries include:
Inaction will have dire consequences for human, animal, plant and environmental health
Antimicrobial drugs- (including antibiotics, antifungals and antiparasitics)- are used in food production all over the world. Antimicrobial drugs are administered to animals not only for veterinary purposes (to treat and prevent disease), but also to promote growth in healthy animals.
Antimicrobial pesticides are also used in agriculture to treat and prevent diseases in plants.
Sometimes antimicrobials used in food systems are the same as or similar to those used to treat humans. Current usage in humans, animals and plants is fueling an alarming rise in drug-resistance and making infections harder to treat. Climate change may also be contributing to an increase in antimicrobial resistance.
Drug-resistant diseases already cause at least 700,000 human deaths globally every year.
Whilst there have been substantial reductions in antibiotic use in animals globally, further reductions are needed.
Without immediate and drastic action to significantly reduce levels of antimicrobial use in food systems, the world is rapidly heading towards a tipping point where the antimicrobials relied on to treat infections in humans, animals and plants will no longer be effective. The impact on local and global health systems, economies, food security and food systems will be devastating.
"We cannot tackle rising levels of antimicrobial resistance without using antimicrobial drugs more sparingly across all sectors," said co-chair of the Global Leader Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. "The world is in a race against antimicrobial resistance, and it's one that we cannot afford to lose."
Reducing the use of antimicrobial drugs in food systems must be a priority for all countries
"Using antimicrobial drugs more responsibly in food systems needs to be a top priority for all countries," said Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance co-chair Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. "Collective action across sectors is crucial to protect our most precious medicines, for the benefit of everyone, everywhere."
Consumers in all countries can play a key role by choosing food products from producers that use antimicrobial drugs responsibly.
Investment is also urgently needed to develop effective alternatives to antimicrobial use in food production, such as vaccines and alternative drugs.