...drug-resistant bacteria on poultry
- Study links drug-resistant bacteria on poultry products to
by Ann Bagel on 3/22/05 for Meatingplace.com
The presence of drug-resistant, pathogenic bacteria on uncooked
poultry products varies by commercial brand and is likely related to
antibiotic use in production, according to researchers at the Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Their study is the first to directly compare bacterial contamination
of poultry products sold in U.S. supermarkets from food producers
who use antibiotics and from those who claim they do not. The study
focused on antibiotic resistance, specifically fluoroquinolone-
resistance in Campylobacter. The study is published online in the
journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
"Our use of medically important classes of antibiotics in food-
animal production creates a significant public health concern," said
the study's lead author Lance Price, a doctoral candidate and fellow
at the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for a Livable
Future. "Companies that use antibiotics foster the development of
drug-resistant bacteria which can spread to the human population.
"Claims have been made that using antibiotics increases food safety
by reducing pathogens on the meat," he added. "Interestingly, in
addition to the results regarding fluoroquinolone-resistant
Campylobacter, we also found that brands that do not use any
antibiotics during production were no more likely to contain
Campylobacter than those that do. In fact, the only brand with a
significantly lower rate of Campylobacter contamination was actually
an antibiotic-free brand."
In 2003, one year after Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms announced they
would stop using fluoroquinolones to treat poultry flocks, Price and
his team began a survey of Campylobacter isolates on uncooked
chicken products from those two companies and from Eberly and Bell &
Evans, who claim their production methods are antibiotic-free. Using
both standard isolation methods and new methods modified to enhance
detection of fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter, they compared
retail products purchased at grocery stores in Baltimore. A high
percentage of the products from the two conventional brands were
contaminated with fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter (96
percent from Tyson and 43 percent from Perdue) while significantly
lower proportions of "antibiotic-free" products were contaminated
with fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter (5 percent from Eberly
and 13 percent from Bell & Evans).
"These results suggest that fluoroquinolone-resistance may persist
in the food supply for a substantial period of time even after
antibiotic use is discontinued," Price said. "Assuming that what we
are observing are lingering resistant strains rather than the result
of continued drug use, then one has to conclude that fluoroquinolone
use in poultry production presents a long-term threat to people."
- . Johns Hopkins Study Finds Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Retail Poultry Products
A study supported by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Heinz Family Foundation shows that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are prevalent in retail chicken products, but that the levels differ by brand. The study focused on Campylobacter, a pathogen responsible for 2.4 million US food-related illnesses each year, and the antibiotic fluoroquinolone (FQ). One year after major US poultry producers announced that they would stop using FQ in their processes, Johns Hopkins scientists initiated a study showing high residual levels of the antibiotic. Specifically, the researchers found that the presence of FQ-resistant Campylobacter pathogens varied significantly by brand, with nearly all of the tested products from Tyson foods (96%) testing positive for contamination. By comparison, 43% of products from Perdue Farms, 13% of those from Bell and Evans, and 5% of those from Eberly were contaminated. According to the study's authors, "These results suggest that FQ-resistance may persist in the food supply for a substantial period of time even after antibiotic use is discontinued. Assuming that what we are observing are lingering resistant strains rather than the result of continued drug use, then one has to conclude that fluoroquinolone use in poultry production presents a long-term threat to people."
The study also found that any type of Campylobacter (resistant and non-resistant strains) is highly prevalent in poultry, with at least 54% of the tested retail products from all four brands showing signs of the pathogen. Again, however, there were differences between brands and types of products, including differences between brands that use antibiotics with their chickens versus those who claim they do not. Many in the industry claim that the use of antibiotics reduces the amount of pathogens found in retail poultry products, but the current study indicates otherwise. Surprisingly, the flesh from birds supposedly not treated with antibiotics showed no greater likelihood of containing Campylobacter, and the lowest incidence of the pathogen was found among products from untreated animals. The study authors say that more research is needed "to accurately measure the prevalence of FQ-resistant Campylobacter in the food supply and to identify the factors contributing to their presence."
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