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Europe: Russia invests in FAO’s work on antimicrobial resistance

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Russia is backing an FAO-led effort to promote food safety and prevent the spread of medicine-resistant ‘superbugs’ in food and on farms in five Central Asian countries with a donation of nearly US$3.25 million.

A new Russia-supported FAO project in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will help national authorities get a better handle the threats posed by antimicrobial resistant microbes in agriculture and food systems.

The bulk of the funding will be used to support action on three fronts:

– Strengthening the regulatory and legal frameworks that underpin national efforts to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in agriculture and food chains, including the development national response strategies;

– Building the capacity of national surveillance systems to monitor and test for AMR in food systems; and

– Raising awareness among farmers, animal and human health professionals, food safety authorities and others regarding AMR risks and how to manage them.

Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance and Consumer Rights Protection, Anna Popova, pledged that her country would bring its significant epidemiological research capacity to bear in support of improved regional cooperation on AMR.

“But AMR is not just a subject for scientific research – it poses very concrete risks to human health, including antibiotic residues in food products,” she said.

“We cannot underestimate this threat, and must translate our words into action,” she added, referencing ang international resolution on AMR action made at UN General Assembly in 2016.

Using antimicrobials in food production

The increased use of antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics in human and animal healthcare – as well as abuse and improper use – has contributed to a rise in the number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to medicines traditionally used to treat them.

This poses considerable risks for human health.

AMR is a concern in hospitals, farms and food systems.

Food can act as a vector that brings humans into contact with AMR pathogens.

And animal diseases that are difficult or impossible to treat due to AMR can impact food production and cause financial losses that erode farmers’ livelihoods.

Industry collaboration

In September 2016, the international community committed to developing national action plans on AMR, based on the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.

The Plan was a blueprint for tackling AMR developed by the World Health Organization in coordination FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Focused primarily on the realm of food and agriculture, the Plan calls for four lines of action:

– Improving awareness of AMR issues among farmers and producers, veterinary professionals and authorities, policymakers, and food consumers;

– Building national capacities for surveillance and monitoring of AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) in food and agriculture;

– Strengthening governance related to AMU and AMR in food and agriculture; and

– Promoting good practices in food and agricultural systems and the prudent use of antimicrobials.

Antimicrobials are critical medicines that must remain useful and effective tools in treating and preventing animal diseases.

FAO has advocated for reducing or entirely cutting out their use in animal feed as ‘growth promoters’ as an important step aimed at safeguarding their continued efficacy.