New research findings this week report that one in five of kindergarten kids carry antibiotic resistant bacteria. This was in Sweden, one of the countries with the lowest antiobiotic use in the world (Norway is one of the few better performing countries). Until now, Swedes could feel safe knowing that relatively low national use in humans and animals is enough to keep antiobiotic resistance at bay.
But we live in a globalised world. Our import of food from countries with extensive use of antibiotics keep increasing. We also travel extensively and pick up resistant bacteria when doing so, particularly if we take antiobiotics in countries where resistant bacteria is common.
There are some aspects here we as individuals cannot control. National and International politics have to work on lowering antibiotics use for example in China and the US.
But there are also things we can do. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most important arguments for buying Swedish or, even better, Norwegian food. While some think antibiotic resistance only concerns meat and is avoided by going vegetarian, unfortunately it is not as easy. All vegetables has to be pollinated and bees used for this purpose are also treated with antibiotics, just like animals. Resistant bacteria are found here too. So to limit the use of antibiotics and hence resistance, we should buy food from low antibiotics countries. The question is not so much which foods we buy as the amount of antibiotics the producing country allows.
By importing more and more food from countries with high antibiotic use, as we’ve done the last decades, we contribute to the antibiotic resistance problem.
While it is easy to make conscious choices in the supermarket, a lot of the imported foods are consumed when eating out. We can always ask though, which country the food comes from and let it inform our choice.
Norway this year strengthened the requirement to consider social and environmental aspects in public procurement. I hope schools, hospitals and public work places will take this opportunity to consider antibiotic use when buying foods for schools and hospitals. Because these are the places that will most likely suffer from antibiotic resistance when it increases.