EU and FAO join forces to take action on food waste and antimicrobial resistance

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and the Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva, today agreed to ramp up collaboration between the two organisations in tackling the problems of waste in food supply chains and antimicrobial resistance.

In a letter of intent signed today, the FAO and the EU pledge to work closely together to halve per capita food waste by 2030, a goal established under the new Sustainable Development Goals global agenda. It also commits them to intensified cooperation on tackling the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on farms and in food systems.

Speaking at a signing ceremony at FAO’s Rome headquarters, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “Food loss and waste represent an unacceptable, unethical and immoral squandering of scarce resources and increase food insecurity, while AMR marks a grave societal and economic burden, adding: “We are becoming more united, more efficient and more strategic in how we tackle these issues, and as such, this agreement should be celebrated.”

Calling AMR a global threat to humans and animals, Graziano da Silva said: “FAO’s vision is that antibiotics and other antimicrobials, should be only used to cure diseases and alleviate unnecessary suffering. While in certain circumstances such treatments could be used to prevent an imminent infection, in no circumstances should they be used for growth promotion,” he said.

“European countries are making great progress in reducing the use of antimicrobials in agriculture. Their experiences can strongly support FAO’s work, especially in promoting technical cooperation activities in developing countries,” the FAO Director-General added.

Noting that food loss and waste is linked to many aspects of sustainable development, Graziano da Silva cited the importance of strong partnerships like that between the FAO and the EU in addressing the problem.

Shared concerns

Globally, one-third of all food produce for human consumption – 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted, each year, causing massive financial losses while squandering natural resources. In Europe alone, around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, with associated costs estimated at E143 billion, according to EU estimates.

Meanwhile, the increased use – and abuse – of antimicrobial medicines in both human and animal healthcare has contributed to an increase in the number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to antimicrobial medicines used to treat them, like antibiotics.

This makes AMR a growing threat that could lead to as many as 10 million deaths a year and over 85 million in losses to the global economy by 2050, according to some studies. And in addition to public health risks, AMR has implications for food safety as walls as the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households across the globe.

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