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Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance in Meat Supply Chains

bacon and meat

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has major global implications for human health, animal health, agriculture, and the economy. The 2016 O’Neill report identified the reduction of "the extensive and unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture" as one of four key interventions needed to tackle AMR, yet within the food industry antimicrobial drugs remain important and necessary tools to support farm animal health and welfare, and the safety of foodstuffs. 

Most microbes are not harmful to human health, indeed many are necessary to digest food and for the continuation of life, but all microbes can share genetic material, including AMR, with neighbouring micro-organisms. This ability of microbes to adapt to antimicrobial drugs means that neither better prescribing nor the development of new drugs will be sufficient to stop the spread of AMR. The cycles of drug efficacy, resistance and obsolescence can, however, be slowed.  Slowing the spread of AMR in meat supply chains is not a straightforward problem of tackling over prescription, but a challenge to improve practices of animal welfare and biosecurity to limit the need for antimicrobials, and to change routines of hygiene, consumption and food preparation to reduce the transmission of resistance. 

A research team based at the Universities of Newcastle and Southampton are undertaking research to explore the role of retailers in navigating the AMR challenge. Supermarket chains are a bridge between production and consumption and so are potentially well positioned not only to encourage the reduction of antimicrobial use in agriculture, but to monitor and minimise movement of antimicrobial resistance through food supply chains, and to raise consumer awareness of the shared challenges of antimicrobial resistance. 

The research, ‘Corporate food retailers, meat supply chains and the responsibilities of tackling antimicrobial resistance’, running from 1st February 2017 to 31st October 2018, is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and supported by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Food Standards Agency. 

The project builds on the proceedings of a workshop organised by the Universities of Southampton and Newcastle and the Food Standards Agency.

On 19 November 2018, the team published the following Stakeholder Report, containing the key findings and recommendations of this research project.

Corporate food retailers, meat supply chains, and the responsibilities of tackling antimicrobial resistance: Stakeholder report 2018 Hocknell, S., Hughes, A., Roe, E., Keevil, B., Wrigley, N. & Lowe, M. 19 Nov 2018 Newcastle University. 24 p.


The rise of antimicrobial resistance is a global crisis, recognised as one of the greatest threats to health today … this may even bring the end of modern medicine as we know it. We need to act now to make sure this does not happen…. Resistant pathogens travel very well internationally in people, animals, and food… We should not blame any single sector. We are all in this together. We need ways to monitor progress and make quick course corrections if we are moving in the wrong direction. Antimicrobial resistance, as I say again and again, is a slow-motion tsunami. It is a global crisis that must be managed with the utmost urgency

Project Team members

PI: Dr Alex Hughes, Newcastle University

Co-Is: Professor Bill Keevil (Biological Sciences), Professor Michelle Lowe (Business School), Professor Neil Wrigley (Geography), Dr Emma Roe (Geography) all from the University of Southampton

Research Associate: Dr Suzanne Hocknell (Geography) Newcastle University

Advisory Board

Dr Kitty Healey, Head of Antimicrobial Resistance Team, Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

Dr Carmen Hubbard, Agriculture, Newcastle University.

Professor Timothy Leighton, Engineering, Southampton University.

Professor Tom Reardon, Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Michigan State University.





Project Partner

Dr Steve Wearne, Director of Policy, Food Standards Agency.

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