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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(7), 2643-2669; doi:10.3390/ijerph10072643
Review

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain: A Review

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1 Directorate Control Policy, Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC), Kruidtuinlaan 55, Brussels 1000, Belgium 2 Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, Ghent 9000, Belgium 3 Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research, Brusselsesteenweg 370, Melle 9090, Belgium 4 CODA-CERVA, Veterinary and Agrochemical Research centre, Groeselenberg 99, Brussels 1180, Belgium 5 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, Merelbeke 9820, Belgium 6 Scientific Institute of Public Health, Juliette Wytsmanstraat 14, Brussels 1050, Belgium 7 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Boulevard de Colonster 20, Liège 4000, Belgium 8 Scientific Committee of the FASFC, Kruidtuinlaan 55, Brussels 1000, Belgium
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 April 2013 / Revised: 14 June 2013 / Accepted: 17 June 2013 / Published: 28 June 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention and Control)
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Abstract

Antimicrobial resistant zoonotic pathogens present on food constitute a direct risk to public health. Antimicrobial resistance genes in commensal or pathogenic strains form an indirect risk to public health, as they increase the gene pool from which pathogenic bacteria can pick up resistance traits. Food can be contaminated with antimicrobial resistant bacteria and/or antimicrobial resistance genes in several ways. A first way is the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria on food selected by the use of antibiotics during agricultural production. A second route is the possible presence of resistance genes in bacteria that are intentionally added during the processing of food (starter cultures, probiotics, bioconserving microorganisms and bacteriophages). A last way is through cross-contamination with antimicrobial resistant bacteria during food processing. Raw food products can be consumed without having undergone prior processing or preservation and therefore hold a substantial risk for transfer of antimicrobial resistance to humans, as the eventually present resistant bacteria are not killed. As a consequence, transfer of antimicrobial resistance genes between bacteria after ingestion by humans may occur. Under minimal processing or preservation treatment conditions, sublethally damaged or stressed cells can be maintained in the food, inducing antimicrobial resistance build-up and enhancing the risk of resistance transfer. Food processes that kill bacteria in food products, decrease the risk of transmission of antimicrobial resistance.
Keywords: antimicrobial resistant bacteria; antimicrobial resistance genes; horizontal gene transfer; food safety antimicrobial resistant bacteria; antimicrobial resistance genes; horizontal gene transfer; food safety
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Verraes, C.; Van Boxstael, S.; Van Meervenne, E.; Van Coillie, E.; Butaye, P.; Catry, B.; de Schaetzen, M.-A.; Van Huffel, X.; Imberechts, H.; Dierick, K.; Daube, G.; Saegerman, C.; De Block, J.; Dewulf, J.; Herman, L. Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain: A Review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10, 2643-2669.

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