Asia


Market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi

The role of food crops as a conduit for transmission of antimicrobial resistance from soil and water to humans has not been widely studied. Contamination of food crops with antimicrobial-resistant pathogens presents an added foodborne risk to human health.

A team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the International Livestock Research Institute, the University of Copenhagen, Royal Veterinary College and CABI carried out a systematic literature review to consolidate the current state of knowledge on antimicrobial resistance in food crop value chains globally. The review is published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (3 Feb 2022).

The review summarized and compared baseline descriptive data on antimicrobial resistance detected in crops and crop inputs globally. This enabled the identification of gaps in understanding of the potential food safety risks to consumers. 

A search of four bibliographic databases using synonyms of antimicrobial resistance in food crop value chains identified 196 studies of interest from 49 countries, mostly in Asia (89 studies) and Africa (38 studies). 

The four most frequently recorded species of interest were Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Enterococcus faecium or Enterococcus faecalis. Salad crops, vegetables, and culinary herbs were the most sampled crops. 

The review found that acquired antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens is disseminated throughout food crop value chains in multiple regions around the world. 

However, there were variable patterns of distribution of antimicrobial resistance. Chloramphenicol resistance was reported in food value chain samples in low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa while vancomycin resistance in enterococci was reported in food crops from high-income countries.

“This review confirms the widespread reporting of resistance to antimicrobials of medical importance in human pathogenic microbes isolated from crops, both in the field and marketplace,” the authors state.

However, it is difficult to conclusively quantify the risks of exposure to consumers because of the low number of longitudinal studies and diverse sampling methods used.

“Firm conclusions cannot be drawn on the prevalence and relative importance of different kinds of resistance and antimicrobial resistance transmission pathways because of the substantial heterogeneity between study methods and conditions,” the authors caution.

“There is a need to include agriculturally-derived antimicrobial resistance in monitoring food safety risks from plant-based foods, and the challenges facing its surveillance,” the authors recommend.

Citation

Brunn, A., Kadri-Alabi, Z., Moodley, A., Guardabassi, L., Taylor, P., Mateus, A. and Waage, J. 2022. Characteristics and global occurrence of human pathogens harboring antimicrobial resistance in food crops: A scoping review. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 6: 824714.

Funding

This scoping review was partially supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Photo credit: Market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (ILRI/Stevie Mann)

Market place in Kenya (photo credit: World Bank/Sambrian Mbaabu).

The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 takes place on 7–8 December 2021. The summit comes at a critical time, midway through the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, with only five years left to achieve the World Health Assembly  targets on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and 10 years to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ahead of the summit, on 2 December 2021, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted a side event on the role of informal markets within future food systems.

The purpose of the side event was to derive a set of principles to help national policymakers develop risk-based policies that reward positive food safety as opposed to criminalization and marginalization. Such policies will improve the governance, operations and future of informal markets to ensure their continued contribution to livelihoods, health and nutrition.

A panel discussion featured the following speakers:

  • Delia Grace, professor of food safety systems, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich and joint appointed scientist, ILRI
  • Jane Battersby, senior lecturer, Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town
  • Vivian Maduekeh, managing principal, Food Health Systems Advisory
  • Emma Blackmore, research associate, IIED
  • Stella Nordhagen, senior technical specialist, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
  • Utpal Kumar Sharma, director, Dairy Development Department, Government of Assam, India

View the recording below.

Photo credit: Market place in Kenya (World Bank/Sambrian Mbaabu)

Makara market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

On 1–2 September 2021, the World Health Organization regional office for Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific hosted a bi-regional advocacy meeting on risk mitigation in traditional food markets in the Asia Pacific region.

Traditional food markets are an important source of affordable, fresh food and contribute to the nutrition, health and livelihoods of many people. However, there are often concerns about the safety of food sold in these markets on account of inadequate facilities and weak food safety regulation.

The objectives of the meeting were to:

  • support national authorities to advocate for improved traditional food markets;
  • discuss strategies to mitigate the risks of unsafe food and spillover of pathogens;
  • present a manual to support risk assessment and mitigation in traditional food markets; and
  • share lessons from member states on improving traditional food markets.

Hung Nguyen-Viet, co-leader of the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), presented an overview of traditional food markets in Asia Pacific, with reference to research projects by ILRI and partners on improving food safety and reducing risks in informal markets in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Citation

Hung Nguyen-Viet, Lindahl, J., Unger, F. and Grace, D. 2021. Overview of traditional food markets in Asia Pacific. Presentation at a bi-regional advocacy meeting on risk mitigation in traditional food markets in the Asia Pacific region, 1–2 September 2021. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Photo credit: Makara market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (ILRI/Hardisman Dasman)