Research at the BfR: Project to reduce antimicrobial- resistant pathogens in fattening poultry launched

Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens pose a health risk for humans and animals. For this reason, the spread of antimicrobial resistance should be prevented to the greatest possible extent. There is major need for action in the areas of housing, slaughter and processing of fattening poultry. "Poultry meat and poultry meat products are an important source of contact with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria for consumers", explains Professor Dr. Reiner Wittkowski, Vice President of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). "This is our starting point for further improving the safety of these foods." In the joint EsRAM project coordinated by the Free University, the BfR will therefore develop solutions in cooperation with project partners from science community and the poultry industry to reduce the incidence of resistant bacteria in fattening poultry. The joint project is sponsored, for a total of EUR 2.46 million, by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) on the basis of a resolution by the German Federal Parliament. Yesterday, the Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt announced the funding decision to the project partners. On the occasion of the project launch, Schmidt said: "We can only prevent the development of antimicrobial resistance, if human and veterinary medicine cooperate closely. In view of this situation, I have, together with my colleague Federal Minister Hermann Gröhe, strengthened and extended the one-health approach. This strategy is supported by the World Organisation for Animal Health OIE, the World Health Organisation WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations FAO. This one-health approach has been established in Germany since 2008. With the 16th amendment of the Medicines Act, we have already established a system to minimise the use of antibiotics in production animals in Germany. A further aspect in the prevention of antimicrobial resistance is research. This is the reason why my ministry invests in the development of concrete measures and products which contribute to a reduction of the development and transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in poultry meat production."

In poultry meat, the detection rates for antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are significantly higher than in beef and pork. As part of the joint project “Development of reduction measures across all stages for antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in fattening poultry” (EsRAM), 10 project partners from the scientific community and the poultry industry are therefore concerned with the development of practice-based solution approaches in this area.

Within the joint project, the BfR focuses on two research areas:

On the one hand, BfR scientists analyse current procedures of slaughtering, cutting and finally processing of poultry. They thereby want to gain more precise knowledge of how pathogens are transferred from one production stage to the next and at what stages new pathogens are introduced. The aim is to develop a catalogue of measures with possible concrete actions to minimise the spread of bacteria in poultry meat production. Among other things, the focus here is on the development of technical procedures for slaughtering, cutting and processing of poultry, cleaning and disinfection systems as well as bacteria -reducing production and packaging processes.

As part of the second research project, the BfR develops electronic, data-based documentation and assessment systems for poultry producers, poultry abattoirs and processing plants. The aim is for these systems to assist poultry producers in generating individualised action plans to reduce the use of antibiotics and the spread of resistance within their plant. The basic objective is to estimate the effectiveness of individual measures in reducing the spread of bacteria within the working processes in abattoirs and processing plants.

In its work for the EsRAM project, the BfR can build on earlier research projects, for example RESET and SILEBAT. For information on these, go to the BfR website at:

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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