• University of Nottingham

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain

Explore how antibiotic use in farming contributes towards resistant bacteria in our food chain. What can we do about this issue?

6,954 enrolled on this course

A vet injecting pigs

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain

6,954 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

How do antibiotic-resistant bacteria develop and find their way into our food?

Learn what antibiotics are, how they work, and how bacteria become resistant to their effects. Hear how antibiotics are used from the perspective of healthcare and veterinary professionals. Explore how antibiotics are used in farming: How can antibiotic-resistant bacteria find their way onto our food? What impact does the environment and global trade have on the spread of this bacteria? Finally, consider what might be done to tackle antibiotic resistance: How effective are current policies? Can we find new types of antibiotics or alternatives to antibiotics? What can we do internationally?

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds Antimicrobial resistance has become a global hot topic over the last few years with the recent report by Lord Jim O’Neill suggesting that this could throw medicine back into the Dark Ages with up to 10 million deaths by the year 2050. This is the equivalent of one death every three seconds. Medical and veterinary professionals have been aware of this problem for 10 years. It is only recently that the public and politicians have become aware of this as a growing threat to international public and animal health and national economies. But what is antimicrobial resistance, or AMR as it’s sometimes called? What are antibiotics or antimicrobials? And what is antibiotic resistance? And how does it develop?

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds Antibiotics are not only used to treat human infections, they’re also used to treat livestock diseases. And in some countries, they’re used to stimulate the growth of livestock. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be carried in the intestines of livestock and contaminate carcasses during the slaughter process and ultimately end up in the meat on our plates. So we can’t divorce ourselves from the consequences of using antibiotics in our food production.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds What are national governments and international organisations doing about this? Can more be done? Particularly in agriculture. Can we find new antibiotics? And are there any alternatives available?

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds We live in a shrinking economic world. How do the farm practices of far-flung countries affect what happens to us here? Perhaps we can live in a world without antibiotics. But what would such a world look like? This three week course offers explanations for some of these issues. And we talk to key players in antimicrobial research, both in human and veterinary medicine, including representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, the veterinary profession, DEFRA (UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. There will be articles, infographics, and you can take part in tests to test your knowledge. And also in discussion forums to explore new solutions.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds So join us on this new course on Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain. Find out more.


  • Week 1

    The mechanisms and transfer of antimicrobial resistance

    • Introduction to the Course

      Why is antimicrobial resistance (AMR) such a pressing issue? Find out what we will be covered in this course and meet the educators who will be guiding you through it.

    • What are antibiotics?

      Learn about what antibiotics are, the history of their discovery, and how they actually work to fight infections.

    • Uses of antibiotics

      Find out about when and how antibiotics are used within human and veterinary medicine.

    • How does resistance develop?

      Uncover the mechanisms by which resistance has developed through the overuse of antibiotics.

    • Transmissible antimicrobial resistance

      How does resistance in bacteria spread to increase the pool of resistance?

  • Week 2

    Antibiotics in the food chain

    • Introduction to Week 2

      This week we will explore the role of antibiotics in the food chain in more detail. We start by looking at the public's perception of AMR, and we consider how much danger it poses compared to other existential threats.

    • AMR and the Food Chain

      Explore the risks of resistant bacteria at all stages of the food chain, from farm to fork. (Photo by USDA).

    • AMR and the Environment

      The wider environment has been affected enormously by the use of antibiotics. (Photo by Matthew McVickar).

    • AMR and International Trade

      What role does international trade have in the spread of antibiotic resistance across the globe?

  • Week 3

    Antibiotic usage and control: Past, present and future

    • Introduction to Week 3

      This week we explore the ways in which we might be able to tackle the problem of AMR.

    • Past: History of AMR in the Food Chain

      Explore the history of antibiotics in agriculture and what efforts have been made so far to monitor and control their usage. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives).

    • Present: What are we doing to address AMR?

      Review the current approaches for controlling the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

    • Future: Further Opportunities for Control

      Explore possible methods we may use to tackle AMR in the future, including new scientific developments and improvements to international control measures. Could a world without antibiotics ever be viable?

    • Wrapping Up

      In this final section, we summarise the key themes that have been covered over the last three weeks and provide suggestions for further study. Passing the final assessment will mean you qualify for a certificate of completion.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the connection between antibiotic use and the development of antibiotic resistance.
  • Describe the mechanisms and dynamics of transfer of resistant bacteria within and along the food chain, as well as describe the environmental impact of the use of antimicrobials.
  • Appraise current legislation and policy in relation to controlling usage of antimicrobials in the food chain.
  • Identify alternative approaches to infection control not involving antibiotics.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone with an interest in antibiotics, food and farming, and how antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will affect our lives in the future. We aim to give you up-to-date information on the key issues in this topic, along with the opinions of leading experts from the world of industry, academia, medicine/veterinary medicine and government.

For those keen to learn more about this area, we also offer a more in-depth online course on Poultry Health, in which we explore how disease can be controlled in the poultry industry; a sector that is particularly susceptible to the challenges of antimicrobial resistance.

What do people say about this course?

"I enjoyed the course immensely and it has increased my knowledge regarding AMR 100%. I would thank all that have put the course together and so actively been involved. Thanks to the participants, we have had some great and thought-provoking discussions. "

Who will you learn with?

Robert is a Lecturer in Microbiology at the University of Nottingham. He has spent over 17 years researching pathogenic bacteria and how biological agents (phages) can be used to control them.

Professor Paul Barrow is Sub-Dean for Research and Business at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham.

Who developed the course?

The University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham is committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring students with world-leading research and benefitting communities all around the world.

Ways to learn

Subscribe & save

Buy this course

Limited access

Choose the best way to learn for you!

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

$109/one-off payment


Develop skills to further your careerFulfill your current learning needSample the course materials
Access to this courseticktick

Access expires 7 Aug 2024

Access to 1,000+ coursestickcrosscross
Learn at your own paceticktickcross
Discuss your learning in commentstickticktick
Tests to check your learningticktickcross
Certificate when you're eligibleDigital onlyPrinted and digitalcross
Continue & Upgrade

Cancel for free anytime

Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 7 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLfoodAMR to talk about this course on social media.