Resistance in our food: How AMR contributes to food insecurity

Resistance in our food: How AMR contributes to food insecurity

By: Iradat Bisola Oladejo


According to WHO antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the top 10 global health threat that is affecting the world, it is a disease that is caused by the misuse or overuse of antimicrobial drugs by human, animal, lack of clean water and sanitation, and inadequate prevention of infection.

AMR is an issue that affects the food system, environment, and health system. This article will focus on how AMR affects the foods system relating to food insecurity and food safety. According to FAO millions of peoplere affected by food insecurity in the world due to poverty, unemployment, low income, and the high price of food. Research shows that AMR is also a contributor to this through the use of antimicrobials in farm animal production and poor surveillance which leads to resistance.


Antimicrobial drugs are drugs that are used to treat infectious diseases caused by microorganism such as bacterial, fungi, viruses, and protozoan parasites. They are mostly used in agriculture to prevent and cure diseases and as a growth promoter in livestock and crops. While antimicrobials are integral to high yield agricultural production, they are only of benefit when employed in a judicial and moderate way, but it is dangerous to use them in an inappropriate manner. It is reported that antimicrobials are mostly used as growth promoters and to prevent and control infection in agriculture; however, farmers need to adopt biosecurity measures, such as good hygiene, on farm land so as to prevent infectionshe use of antimicrobial drugs varies between regions and countries which is being influenced by the food-animal species, regional production pattern, types of species, lack of polices on the use of antimicrobial drugs, and socio-economic state of population and farmers. China has been recorded as the world’s leading producer and consumer of both animal and human antimicrobial drugs. The adverse effect of AMR is mostly felt in the developing world like parts of Asia and Africa because of the poor surveillance system that exists for antimicrobial drugs in these countries.

Antimicrobials are used at a high rate in the developing world, especially in the farming sector. This is influenced by the way the farmers acquire both the product and the education or lack thereof regarding how to use these drugs. Other existing factors such as the level of infection, incorrect dosing, lack of knowledge on AMR, and the unavailability of veterinarians and their services also contributes to it. According to FAO, some developing countries still make use of antibioticsike chloramphenicol and tylosin, amongst others, in livestock and crops. These have been banned in more developed countries because their use is associated with  carcinogenicity, kidney disease and aplastic anemia in humans. These issues can arise through consumption of food-animal products harboring antibiotics residue. This further contributes to food insecurity and food safety as it causes production loss and renders the food unsafe and unhealthy for consumption.

Another way that AMR contributes to food insecurity and food safety is through contamination to the soil and water. These resources serve as reservoirs for drug resistant pathogens, and can further contaminate farm produce and exacerbate food losses. They can also be found in food producing animals because of the presence of antibiotic residues in animal-derived products like kidney, liver, muscle, fat, milk, and eggs which are consumed by humans. These residues negatively contribute to the food system by making food unsafe for consumption due to drug toxicity, allergic reactions, carcinogenicity, and drug sensitization, thereby leading to food insecurity as it brings about food wastage and consumption of unsafe food.


Antimicrobial resistance is a multi-disciplinary problem that needs a multi-disciplinary approach to solutions.  While AMR affects the public health sector, the agri-food system is also a major contributor. To tackle this global threat, a One Health approach needs to be considered. This approach is mostly regarded as quadripartite because it was formed by four organizations: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH,) with the aim to mitigate the threat of AMR by putting into consideration the agri-food system, public health, and the environment. Apart from using the One Health approach, other things like strengthening the surveillance system, adopting policies that will mitigate the misuse of antimicrobial drugs on livestock and crops, and creating more awareness on how antimicrobial resistance negatively affects the agri-food system by negatively impacting food insecurity and safety.


AMR is a problem caused by the resistance of disease-causing microorganisms to our limited available antimicrobials. This problem also contributes negatively to the Agri-Food system as it leads to food insecurity and safety issues. The most affected populations are those in the developing world due to poor surveillance, lack of policies against AMR, and the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials on livestock and crops. Research shows that in ten years’ time over 24 million people may be forced to extreme poverty because of AMR especially in the developing world. It also negatively impacts food production, food security, and farmers’ livelihoods.

To mitigate the effect of AMR, actions like the One Health approach, strengthening the surveillance system, and creating policies that will curb the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials must be developed and implemented. Farmers should also be encouraged to use alternatives to antimicrobials and improve farm management. A Codex Alimentarius should be created on the use of antimicrobials, and industries and farmers should be monitored to ensure sure that these rules and standards are followed to help create a better and safety Agri-Food system for everyone.


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About the Author:

Iradat is an undergraduate of Food Science and Technology, currently the President of Impact Leaders Club University of Calabar chapter, and a YALI RLC west Africa alumni. Iradat has over four years of experience in community development, leadership, and volunteering. She is a food enthusiast and is also passionate about tackling issues related to food security, girls and women empowerment, and making positive impact in her country and in the world. Iradat believes in a world where good food will be available to all without discrimination.

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