Greater monitoring of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food needs to be developed, according to new research for the FSA.

The report, conducted for the regulator by the Royal Veterinary College and published today (25 November), suggested there was a lack of data regarding antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in British-produced food and food imported to the UK.

“Further efforts should be made to develop surveillance programmes that will identify trends in the prevalence of AMR bacteria in foods, and thereby provide a framework for assessing potential risks associated with exposure to such hazards among British consumers,” it said.

The research was commissioned to look into the contribution food makes to the threat of AMR and examined evidence taken between 1999 and May 2016 on the occurrence of AMR in bacteria found in pork, poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce at retail level.

It also suggested the process of testing should be made more thorough, with random sampling, a standardised definition for multidrug resistance, and a coherent selection process for testing panels, while the data available on AMR bacteria in meat was generally “limited and dated”.

The study was published ahead of a meeting of global food standards body Codex Alimentarius’ working group on AMR, which will be held in London from 29 November to 2 December. The FSA said the report would set the terms of reference for an upcoming intergovernmental task force on AMR.

It follows an internal review published by the FSA in September, which admitted there were “significant” evidence and knowledge gaps in the understanding of links between food and antimicrobial resistance.

Defra said the UK was “on track” to meet its target to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock last week, with sales of drugs for use in food-producing animals falling by 10% between 2014 and 2015. However, campaign group The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics warned that reduction in the use of critically important antibiotics in livestock remained slow.