In this series of insight posts, we explore the issue of AMR in Asia-Pacific, and some new initiatives to provide consumers with information to address concerns and inform purchasing decisions.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a complex and technical issue that is of increasing concern to consumers in Asia-Pacific. Antibiotics are an important part of animal agriculture in the region, which has already suffered from a range of serious animal diseases that have had major economic impacts on agriculture sectors national economies. There is however a level of consumer concern about usage in general, particularly in stewardship of use. This manifests in an underlying fear that misuse of antibiotics could increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in the human general population.
The risks of AMR spread from farms to consumers is another risk that is plagued by uncertainty. We have noted consistently over the last two decades the impact of uncertainty on risk perception and societal and governmental reactions to uncertain risks. The general reaction has been to downplay or avoid discussion of such risks until it is too late.
There is no question that from a risk communication perspective, AMR is a challenging issue. There is actual risk, perception of risk, uncertainty, vulnerability and what many consumers see as interdependence with producers. They sense a lack of control over the risk, which always leads to greater cognitive risk. There are proposals afoot to develop new labelling schemes that look beyond “absence labelling” (this meat is antibiotic free) and these will require considered development and implementation.