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Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in UK Supermarket Chicken

05 September 2016

UK – New research has found 24 per cent of supermarket chicken and pork samples test positive for a type of E. coli that is resistant to the ‘critically important’ modern cephalosporin antibiotics, a level four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015.

The study, commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics and carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK (ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). The highly resistant ESBL type of E. coli was found on meat from all of the supermarkets.

Dr Mark Holmes, from Cambridge University, who led the study said: “I'm concerned that insufficient resources are being put into the surveillance of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and retail meat. We don’t know if these levels are rising or falling in the absence of an effective monitoring system.

“These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine. While some progress has been made we must not be complacent as it may take many years before we see significant reductions in the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in farms.”

Chairman of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance, Gwyn Jones, said: "The farming industry must also play its part to control spread of resistance. This is why RUMA announced in May it is setting up an industry task force to look at how meaningful targets can be developed to replace, reduce and refine antibiotic use in UK agriculture. That group is now being formed and a first meeting will be held shortly.”

The British Poultry Council commented that the poultry sector has reduced its use of antibiotics by 44 per cent since 2012, but added that resistance is complex and efforts are continuing to address this. “How best to do this is just one of the incredibly difficult questions we and the scientific community are trying to answer,” the organisation said.

The Council added that good hygiene practice in cooking and handling the meat will kill the E. coli.

ThePoultrySite News Desk

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