Experts sound alarm on AMR bacteria found in Australian supermarket meats

World Animal Protection

New research aired by ABC’s 7.30 report last night revealed an alarming proportion of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in packaged beef and salmon from Australian supermarkets, found in a new report by the Monash University Centre to Impact AMR.

The research, commissioned by World Animal Protection, investigated the presence of antimicrobial resistance in packaged meat from Australian supermarkets, finding high levels of bacteria resistant to medically important antibiotics, typically used as first and second line treatment for humans.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is driven by the overuse or inappropriate use of antibiotics. In Australia, the animal agriculture industry is a major user of antibiotics and evidence suggests that they use them in ways that could foster antimicrobial resistance.

Unlike the EU, Australia continues to allow antibiotics to be routinely administered to promote growth and to groups of animals who are not sick. The use of antimicrobials for growth promotion purposes was outlawed in the UK and the EU in 2006 because of concerns that it can drive antimicrobial resistance. This year, the EU banned the use of antimicrobials for preventative purposes, again due to concerns that it could contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

Also of concern in Australia is the lack of transparency about the volume of antibiotics being used on Australian farms. The last publicly available data is from 2014 and covers the period 2005-10. In comparison, many countries in Europe provide annual reports on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Rochelle Flood, Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection said: “Last night’s 7:30 report highlights the need for greater urgency in our response to the threat of AMR.

“We need a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance system for antimicrobial use and resistance, as advocated by Monash University and countless studies and actions plans in Australia. In addition, we need much greater transparency on the use of antimicrobials in animal agriculture, as is common in other countries.

“What is being used, on what animals and in what way. That information must be made public so that we can hold the industry to account and ensure that they are playing their role in addressing antimicrobial resistance by reducing the use of antibiotics and using them appropriately.”

World Animal Protection is calling for the Federal and State Governments to introduce mandatory public reporting of antibiotic use across the agriculture sector, as is common in many other countries, and to adopt a One Health approach to surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial use and resistance across the human and animal health sectors, and environment. World Animal Protection is also calling for a ban on the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, and for routine group prophylaxis.

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