Regulation, good farming practices and consumer habits can help fend off antimicrobial-resistant superbugs.
Antibiotics are a major group of veterinary drugs used globally by the livestock industry to prevent and treat infectious bacterial diseases. They are also a type of antimicrobial, commonly used to treat bacterial infections that make humans ill.
However, the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials have led to bacteria growing ‘smarter’ over time and becoming drug-resistant superbugs. This phenomenon is known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR). While AMR occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic mutations, the rate of resistance development and spread has been accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antimicrobial agents.
Regulating the use of antimicrobials in food from animal origins
SFA prohibits the use of certain antibiotics in food-producing animals, and places strict limits on antibiotic residues in food products.
A robust drug residue monitoring system is also instituted by SFA to ensure the safety of imported meat products. An enhanced laboratory method developed by SFA now allows it to detect more than 100 types of veterinary drugs at increased speed and efficiency.
With more than 90 percent of our food coming from overseas, it is also important to manage AMR upstream. Regionally, we initiated efforts to build partnerships and technical capacities to address and tackle AMR. In consultation with ASEAN Member States, Singapore developed the ASEAN Guidelines on Prudent Use of Antimicrobials in Livestock, and spearheaded ASEAN cooperation in fighting AMR in the aquaculture sector. These efforts complement Singapore’s National Strategic Action Plan to combat AMR, which was jointly developed by One Health agencies in 2017.
Working with local farmers
Locally, the industry has a responsibility to produce safe food. SFA encourages local farmers to implement good animal husbandry practices, through our accreditation and certification programmes such as the Singapore Egg Quality Scheme and Good Aquaculture Practices certification.
These programmes emphasise quality management, good hygiene, good farm management practices, and the monitoring of veterinary drug use on the farm. These measures help to prevent disease incursion and manage diseases, which would reduce the need for antimicrobials.
In addition, SFA monitors the AMR profile in common food-borne pathogens, and in local poultry and ruminant farms. The information gathered will provide insights into the development of AMR locally and help us to take appropriate precautionary measures.
Consumers have a part to play
Antimicrobial resistant microorganisms can be transmitted through consumption of inadequately cooked or handled food, the environment (e.g. water and soil), and direct contact between animals and humans. Adopting good food safety practices during food handling and preparation will reduce the risk of contamination. Watch this video to learn how you can protect yourself against these superbugs:
For more information, updates, and useful links on AMR, please visit go.gov.sg/sfa-amr.
Food for Thought is a digital publication by
© 2022 Singapore Food Agency
Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020