Tuesday, 21 June
A new Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) survey has shown no human health implications from antimicrobial resistance in New Zealand food-producing animals and fresh produce.
Antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria - which do not respond to antibiotics - are increasingly associated with human illness and death. While the large majority of cases are due to antimicrobial use in human medicine, there is also a potential for transmission via the food chain.
The year-long baseline survey carried out in 2009-2010 focused on antimicrobial resistance to important and commonly used antibiotics among E. Coli, Enterococcus, Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria found in freshly dressed carcasses of calves, pigs and broiler poultry from New Zealand abattoirs and processing plants. It also included samples of Salmonella and E. Coli isolated during a survey of fresh produce in 2008-2009.
MAF public health principal adviser Donald Campbell says the survey indicates that our farming community is using antibiotics responsibly in compliance with veterinarian advice, and the little resistance found has no direct implications for human health.
"Although the survey detected some resistance to certain antimicrobials from particular bacteria found in the targeted foods, it is pleasing to see that the resistance has no direct implications for human health," he says.
Dr Campbell says that comparing results from this survey with the limited data available from earlier New Zealand studies on bacteria isolated from animals suggests there has been no increase in resistance in food-producing animals in New Zealand.
Compared with 2009 data from the Danish DANMAP surveillance system, which uses a similar methodology to that used in this survey, resistance among bacteria from New Zealand pigs and poultry was either lower or not significantly different.
"Denmark is seen as a world leader in controlling antimicrobial resistance so that’s a good benchmark to measure ourselves against," Dr Campbell says.
MAF's baseline survey was carried out to determine the current status and whether there is a need in New Zealand to implement an ongoing surveillance programme for antibiotic resistance in food-producing animals.
As part of the management of antibiotic resistance, registrants of restricted veterinary medicines containing antibiotics must provide an annual report of sales by month to MAF. Along with the antimicrobial resistance survey, MAF today released an overview of antibiotic sales and use from 2004 - 2009. This report shows that total antibiotic sales decreased from a peak of 62,883 kg in 2005/6 to 53,031 kg in 2007/8. Sales increased by 5 percent between 2007/8 and 2008/9.
A report containing a review and update on New Zealand’s regulatory control of antimicrobial agricultural compounds with regard to antimicrobial resistance has also been released today.
To see the full reports go to:
Antibiotic Sales and Use Overview 2004 - 2009 (211 KB PDF)
Notes to the editor:
The use of antibiotics to prevent disease in animals and plants that are then used to produce food can potentially affect public health by creating a reservoir of resistant bacteria or the resistance genes. This resistance can be passed on to human disease-causing bacteria, both directly and indirectly. Factors that help prevent antimicrobial resistant bacteria from developing and spreading include sensible use of antibiotics and effective infection control practices, especially in human healthcare.
The antimicrobial resistance survey was recommended by MAF’s Expert Panel on Antibiotic Resistance, funded by the Ministry of Health and carried out by Environmental Science and Research.
For more information on antibiotic resistance and food see:
Miriam Meister, Senior Communications Adviser
Telephone: 04-894 2466 or 029-894 2466