The Institute of Food Technologists has released a report entitled Antimicrobial Resistance: Implications for the Food System.

First off, it’s worth noting that IFT is a non-profit, international scientific society of food-science and technology professionals. It organized an expert panel to review antimicrobial resistance as it relates to the food industry. The panel examined antimicrobial use in food-animal production, manufacturing and elsewhere in the chain, and its potential to create resistant foodborne pathogens. The point was to determine whether there is a residual affect in controlling those pathogens in production agriculture, food processing or human medicine.

The IFT panel concluded that eliminating antimicrobial use from food-animal production may have little positive impact on resistant bacteria of concern to human health.

“This opinion is supported by the experience observed internationally when sub-therapeutic antimicrobials have been withdrawn, resulting in increased animal diseases and a subsequent increase in therapeutic antimicrobial use,” the panel noted.

The European Union’s elimination of certain antibiotics has not shown to reduce the prevalence of some antibiotic-resistant strains affecting human medicine. Quite the opposite; resistance increased among some pathogens according to the IFT report.

“Prior human exposure to antibiotics is the greatest factor for acquiring an infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” said Michael Doyle, panel chairman, microbiologist and food-safety expert.

The report cited concerns that new antibiotics for use in livestock are not being produced at a rate fast enough to keep pace with the development of resistant bacteria. The panel also concluded that antibiotic treatments used in food-animal production can benefit public health by reducing pathogens that cause human illness from within the animals.

To view the report, go to http://members.ift.org/IFT/Research/IFTExpertReports/antimicrobial_report.htm.