What could antimicrobial-resistant meat and poultry mean for the industry?
- A recent study of retail meat and poultry samples and cattle fecal samples found that 18 E. coli isolates were resistant to four antimicrobials — ampicillin, ceftiofur, ceftriaxone and cefotaxime. The study was published online Sept. 1 in the journal Microbial Drug Resistance and conducted by researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas Tech University.
- Researchers investigated five E. coli isolates recovered from cattle and 13 retail meat and poultry samples collected through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System program between 2011 and 2015, according to Meatingplace. The retail samples included five from chicken breast, six from ground turkey, one from ground beef and one from pork chops.
- To help address this issue, the USDA, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with retailers, pharmaceutical companies, medical organizations and meat processors, joined this week in a yearlong Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge. The CDC asked them to commit to one of five goals: sharing data, improving infection prevention, helping the environment, improving antibiotic use or investing in innovative projects involving vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to ramp up the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Finding antibiotic-resistant E. coli isolates in retail meat and poultry samples and cattle fecal samples continues to recur in the industry, but new efforts to solve the problem could help reduce the frequency. Producers, processors and related businesses are now looking for ways to limit the issue. Enhanced screening methods might be one way to get a handle on antimicrobial-resistant meat and poultry products before consumers begin to believe things will only get worse.
The National Pork Producers Council has joined the fledgling Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge and said in a press release it plans to "inform the development of the standards on antibiotic residues and utilize communications channels to increase industry knowledge and adoption of standards" that the group hopes will be internationally accepted.
Gordon Spronk, a swine veterinarian and NPPC board member, called antibiotic resistance "a very serious issue" the U.S. pork industry is committed to addressing. "Pork producers have practiced responsible use of antibiotics for as long as they’ve been employing them as a way to keep their animals healthy and produce safe pork," Spronk said in the release.
Some pork producers have gone antibiotic-free to attract consumers looking for the label claim. Giant Food, a unit of Ahold Delhaize, debuted a private-label pork brand last year with no antibiotics or hormones and 100% vegetarian-fed. The "No Antibiotics Ever" brand joined Nature's Promise antibiotic-free and growth hormone-free turkey brand the retailer introduced in the fall of 2016.
Major poultry producers such as Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride and Perdue have committed to reducing or removing antibiotics from their chicken, but Sanderson Farms has continued its antibiotic use and defended the practice in multiple ad campaigns. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly concerned that eating meat or poultry products from animals treated with antibiotics could result in more antibiotic resistance in humans.
According to Nielsen, sales of antibiotic-free meat jumped nearly 29% each year from 2011 to 2015, compared to about 5% for conventionally raised meat. From 2016 to 2017, sales of no-antibiotics-ever meat grew by 45%, while conventional meat saw a 10% rise. These increases came as the FDA chose to ban the use of antibiotics solely for growth promotion, although some critics say loopholes make the ban less effective than it might have been. But, at the same time, an annual report from the FDA found the number of antibiotics and other antimicrobials used in food animals dropped in 2016, the first such decrease since the agency started keeping track.
Last year's guidance from the World Health Organization encouraged global producers to limit the use of antibiotics just to make animals grow larger and faster. Strictly following that guidance may not prevent antimicrobial resistance, but it could help to cut down on the problem, which is what producers say they want. However, as long as some of them believe routine antibiotic application is necessary to keep animals healthy, dramatically lowered use is likely to remain an elusive goal — unless concerned consumers vote with their wallets.
- Meatingplace FDA/USDA find antimicrobial-resistant E. coli in some U.S. retail meat samples
- Meatingplace Feds, industry work together on antimicrobial resistance
- Microbial Drug Resistance Whole-Genome Sequence Analysis of CTX-M Containing Escherichia coli Isolates from Retail Meats and Cattle in the United States