John Hopkins on Antibiotic-resistent Bacteria in Retail Poultry Products
- . 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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