Globally, increasing acquired antimicrobial resistance among pathogenic bacteria presents an urgent challenge to human and animal health. As a result, significant efforts, such as the One Health Initiative, are underway to curtail and optimize the use of critically important antimicrobials for human medicine in all applications, including food animal production. This review discusses the rationale behind multiple and competing “critically important antimicrobial” lists and their contexts as created by international, regional, and national organizations; identifies discrepancies among these lists; and describes issues surrounding risk management recommendations that have been made by regulatory organizations on the use of antibiotics in food animal production. A more harmonized approach to defining criticality in its various contexts (e.g., for human versus animal health, enteric diseases versus other systemic infections, and direct versus indirect selection of resistance) is needed in order to identify shared contextual features, aid in their translation into risk management, and identify the best ways to maintain the health of food animals, all while keeping in mind the wider risks of antimicrobial resistance, environmental impacts, and animal welfare considerations.
- animal agriculture
- antimicrobial resistance
- critically important antimicrobials