The One Health concept is a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of healthcare for humans, animals, and the environment. Recognizing that human health, animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, One Health seeks to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, and other scientific health and environmental professionals and by promoting strengths in leadership and management to achieve these goals. One Health seeks to improve communication and encourage collaboration between these professionals to find multidisciplinary solutions to shared challenges, and microbial food safety must certainly be counted amongst the most important of such challenges currently before us.

The One Health concept promotes a holistic approach as the basis for understanding, protecting, and promoting the health of all species. Whether it is emerging infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, globalization, or natural disasters, human and veterinary medical communities must work together. Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue and a central part of One Health, which is highlighted by the fact that one of the major issues in food safety over the most recent decades has been the lack of cross-sectoral collaboration across the food production chain. The development of some of the major food safety events recently have been impacted by the lack of collaboration between the animal health, food control, and human health sectors (Wielinga and Schlundt, 2013).

One Health

One Health formulates clearly both the need for and the benefit of crosssectoral collaboration in food safety and control. Some foodborne diseases have global epidemic— or pandemic— potential, resulting in dramatic action from international organizations and national agricultural and health authorities in most countries, for instance, as was the case with avian influenza. Other diseases relate to the industrialized food production chain and have been— in some settings— dealt with efficiently through farm-to-fork preventive action in the animal sector, for example, Salmonella and antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens (Wielinga et al., 2014). While, in theory, most national regulators in the food and health sectors agree that links between sectors are needed, there is not always agreement between sectors on how such links should be established and, in effect, how a One Health system should be introduced. When national agencies are accustomed to regulating and controlling specific areas, one of the most difficult changes seems to be a change resulting in the responsibility for such areas shifting from one to another ministry. National examples where One Health– like changes took place include Denmark, 1996: the prime minister announced a new Ministry for Food; the United States, 1997: President Clinton announced a “ Food Safety from Farm to Table” plan; the European Union, 2002: the E.U. Parliament and Council adopted a General Food Law following “ Farm to Table” principles and created the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In all these cases, the highest governmental authority had to oversee change; change did not just come from intersectoral collaboration. It would seem that introduction of regulatory change to introduce One Health principles and frameworks needs a thorough and comprehensive policy reform in order to succeed.


Thus, an important microbiological problem which is clearly One Health in nature is the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The rapid spread of AMR in microbial populations now challenges sustainable food production and public health in general. A recent U.S. presidential report (Anon., 2015) states that antibiotic resistance is developing at an alarming rate and that efforts must also aim at decreasing current overuse in animals. While recent E.U. regulations have banned the use of antimicrobials for all animal growth promotion, such additional use of antimicrobials continues in the rest of the world. It is estimated that maybe as high as 70% to 85% of all antimicrobials are used in the animal sector. The published estimates of the proportion of antibiotics consumed in animal agriculture— 84% (for 36 antibiotics) in China and 70% in the United States— would suggest that global agri- and aquacultural use clearly exceeds human use (noting that usage data from most other parts of the world is missing) (Robinson et al., 2016). A large part of this use is justified and valid on veterinary grounds, but there is significant misuse in the agricultural sector, including both growth-promoter use and excess use for treatment and prevention. With such large consumption levels, it seems likely that agricultural use contributes significantly to AMR. A recent review suggested that misuse of antimicrobials in animal production is a clear and substantial driver of AMR (Holmes et al., 2016).

In order to characterize the nature and extent of the AMR problem we need to document the passage of AMR genetic elements from agri- and aquaculture to humans through food, applying the One Health paradigm. Therefore, we need to look at the dynamic interactions that occur at the interfaces between human, animal, and ecosystem sectors (Lammie and Hughes, 2016). Such documentation is now possible through use of the novel technology of next generation DNA sequencing (NGS) to characterize the transmission of AMR determinants from animals to humans and the nature and extent of transfer in real life.

The novel use of NGS to quickly and accurately characterize microorganisms genetically (including AMR genetic elements) represents a new uniform and efficient accounting methodology for the investigation of food contamination issues throughout food production chains and all the way into the human sector. Cross-sectoral use of NGS technology can provide the scientific background for a potentially revolutionizing surveillance system in support of food production and food control. This system will align identification and typing methodology across health and agriculture sectors, something which was never possible with traditional microbiological methodology. This is because the traditional microbiological methodology requires prior knowledge of the identity of tested bacterial species before further characterization, availability of suitable typing systems and reagents for identification and characterization, and multiple different analyses to be done for confirmation of bacterial identity and the genes that are responsible for AMR.