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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

What can Twitter teach you about antibiotic resistance in chicken in the U.S?

Actually, quite a lot if you follow @marynmck on Twitter.  Maryn McKenna is a journalist for national magazines and the author of SUPERBUG and BEATING BACK THE DEVIL. She finds emerging diseases strangely exciting.  Here is what she posted today on Wired, after seeing the chicken post I made last evening:

Oh, but none of those countries are the United States, you say. Then take a look at these:

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Those graphics come from a little-read report put out every year by the US Food and Drug Administration as part of its participation in NARMS, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System that’s shared by the FDA, USDA and CDC. The FDA handles the part of NARMS that looks for resistant bacteria in meat (CDC does human illnesses, USDA does live animals), and the figures above show the percentages of Salmonella and enterococci that were found in retail chicken breasts between 2002 and 2008 (the most recent report) and were resistant to various drugs. The bar along the bottom of each figure shows the major drug classes. So in 2008: 45% of Salmonella on chicken were resistant to tetracycline and 30% to penicillins; among enterococci (common gut bacteria, and therefore common contaminants of meat during slaughtering), 65% resistant to tetracycline and more than 90% to lincosamides, which include the everyday drug clindamycin.

In the narrative portion of the report, the FDA said:

38.2% of chicken breast Salmonella isolates were resistant to ≥ 3 antimicrobial classes in 2008 compared to 51% in ground turkey, an increase in both from previous years. From 2002–2007, multidrug resistance to ≥ 3 antimicrobial classes ranged from 20–34.4% among chicken breast and 20.3–42.6% for ground turkey. More than 15% of chicken breast and ground turkey isolates showed resistance to ≥ 4 classes in 2008.

I may have to expand my flock at home.

  • Fred B

    This is scary stuff, Bill, I agree. However, being short a Taj Chicken, I still have to find a “clean” source of birds – do you know of any reports that break down resistance by brands and/or stores? For example, some of the chain “organic” grocery stores claim their chicken is clean-living, but I don’t actually trust advertising (shocking, I know). It would be nice to be reasonably sure of finding a chicken that won’t sicken me at a store, though now I’m not sure such exist.