Last reviewed 25 November 2020

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the result of an EU survey monitoring the levels of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) E coli bacteria in beef and pork sold by retailers in the UK.

The FSA says its new report shows that levels of AMR E coli contamination in retail beef and pork are “holding steady”, with less than 1% of samples having E coli with the types of AMR being monitored.

The annual survey tests meat products on sale in the UK for the presence of certain types of AMR E coli and the latest findings are said to be similar to those from previous beef and pork surveys in 2015 and 2017.

Year 5 of the survey was carried out between January and December 2019 and saw sampling focus on beef and pork. Previous surveys have also looked at AMR contamination in chicken.

The development and spread of antimicrobial resistance is a concern worldwide. The use of antibiotics is important in treating infections and preventing disease from arising in both animals and humans.

However, the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in both animal husbandry and healthcare settings have been linked to the emergence and spread of microorganisms which are resistant to them, rendering treatment ineffective and posing a risk to public health.

Commenting on the latest FSA figures, Paul Cook, the FSA’s Science lead in Microbiological Risk Assessment, said, “It is reassuring that results have remained stable and levels continue to be very low. We will continue our work to fill the evidence gap of the role that food plays in antimicrobial resistance.

“The risk of getting AMR-related infections through the consumption and handling of contaminated meat is very low, as long as you follow good hygiene and cooking practices.”