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Food supply chains and the antimicrobial resistance challenge: On the framing, accomplishments and limitations of corporate responsibility

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alexandra Hughes, Dr Suzanne HocknellORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper presents a critique of supply chain responses to a particular global wicked problem –antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It evaluates the understanding of AMR (and drug-resistant infections) as a food system challenge and critically explores how responsibility for addressing it is framed and implemented. We place the spotlight on the AMR strategies applied in UK retailers’ domestic poultry and pork supply chains. This provides a timely analysis of corporate engagement with AMR in light of the 2016 O’Neill report on Tackling Drug Resistant Infections Globally, which positioned supermarket chains, processors, and regulators as holding key responsibilities. Research included interviews with retailers, industry bodies, policy makers, farmers, processors, consultants, and campaigners. We evaluate how strategy for tackling AMR in the food system is focused on antimicrobial stewardship, particularly targets for reducing antibiotic use in domestic food production. The Global Value Chain notion of multipolar governance, where influence derives from multiple nodes both inside and outside the supply chain, is blended with more-than-human assemblage perspectives to capture the implementation of targets. This conceptual fusion grasps how supply chain responsibility and influence works through both a distributed group of stakeholders and the ecological complexity of the AMR challenge. The paper demonstrates in turn: how the targets for reducing antibiotic use in domestic meat production represent a particular and narrowly-defined strategic focus; how those targets have been met through distributed agency in the UK supply chain; and the geographical and biological limitations of the targets in tackling AMR as a wicked problem.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hughes A, Roe E, Hocknell S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A: Economy & Space

Year: 2021

Volume: 53

Issue: 6

Pages: 1373-1390

Print publication date: 01/09/2021

Online publication date: 07/05/2021

Acceptance date: 15/04/2021

Date deposited: 16/04/2021

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0308518X211015255


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