FSA publishes results of survey into AMR levels in pork mince

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today published the findings of a major survey commissioned to fill in the gaps in the data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) prevalence in food on UK supermarket shelves.

This was in response to the FSA’s own systematic review of AMR in the food chain

The survey was based on 339 samples of raw chicken (whole or portions) and 342 samples of raw pork mince collected from retailers in September and October 2017.

It involved the testing of Campylobacter in chicken samples and Salmonella in pork mince samples for the occurrence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. It also looked for AMR in other commensal (non-pathogenic) bacteria in both types of meat including Enterococci, Klebsiella and Escherichia coli.

You can read the final report of the survey here.

Key findings included:

  • Salmonella was detected in only 5/342 (1.5%) pork mince samples and none of the isolates displayed resistance to any of the highest-priority critically important antibiotics for human medicine
  • ESBL-producing E.coli bacteria were detected in 16/342 (4.7%) of pork mince samples.
  • Although Klebsiella was detected in 37% of pork mince samples, rates of resistance in the isolated bacteria were low.

The FSA said the data generated would help to establish a baseline of the occurrence, types and levels of AMR in bacteria found in these UK retail meats which will inform future surveillance on AMR in these foods.

“Antimicrobial resistance was detected in a proportion of all the types of bacteria examined, ,” the report concluded.

“However, the risk of acquiring AMR from these foods is very low provided that they are cooked and handled hygienically. Due to the strategy of sampling in relation to market share, there were insufficient samples from non-UK countries to allow statistical analysis of differences between UK and non-UK produced meat. However, this may be a focus for a future study.”

Steve Wearne, director of food policy at the FSA said: “The emergence and spread of AMR poses a significant global threat both in terms of public health and economic impact and we are determined to play our part in addressing this threat.

He welcomed the steps the industry is taking on antibiotic stewardship, including the halving of antibiotic use in UK pigs between 2015 and 2017.

Minimising use

NPA senior policy adviser Georgina Crayford welcomed FSA’s commitment to improving surveillance of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food.

“The UK pig industry has been working extremely hard to minimise its use of antibiotics, to limit the development of AMR,” she said. “The results from this survey provide an additional level of detail that will complement the growing amount of data surrounding antibiotic use and presence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in the pork supply chain.

“The information will help to inform decisions by pig producers and their vets around managing pig health and will drive continued action towards greater stewardship of antibiotics.”

“The pig sector will be reassured by FSA’s conclusion that the risk to consumers posed by resistant bacteria in pork is very low provided it is cooked and handled hygienically, which has always been the advice.

“While reductions in antibiotic use on farm may not result directly in reduced prevalence of resistant bacteria in food, pig producers will nonetheless continue to work with their vets to improve antibiotic stewardship to ensure the risk to public health is kept to a minimum.”

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones said: “Our focus is on reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use; while some livestock sectors have already achieved extraordinary results, there is definitely more to do in others.

“We believe the FSA’s new research will add to the bank of knowledge and help identify additional interventions that reduce any anti microbial resistant bacteria in food, while safeguarding our continued access to antibiotics that treat disease and prevent pain or suffering in animals.”


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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.