The NARMS retail meat surveillance program is a joint effort of the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and health departments in 11 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Its goals include providing information to promote steps for reducing resistance in foodborne bacteria. In 2011, each health department bought about 40 retail samples each month—10 each of chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, and pork chops. All the state labs cultured meat and poultry samples for Salmonella, but only poultry samples were cultured for Campylobacter. Four of the states also cultured samples for Enterococcus and Escherichia coli. CIDRAP did a great job of summarizing the key findings. Here is the PDF of the Full Report.

The testing revealed that 44.9% of Salmonella isolates in chicken were resistant to at least three antimicrobial classes in 2011, compared with 43.3% in 2010. In ground turkey, 50.3% of isolates showed this level of resistance, up from 33.7% the year before. In addition, 27% of chicken isolates showed resistance to at least five drug classes, which was down from 29% in 2010.  The researchers found continuing increases in Salmonella resistance to two specific drug classes. Between 2002 and 2011, resistance to third-generation cephalosporins in chicken isolates climbed from 10% to 33.5%, while such resistance in ground turkey rose from 8.1% to 22.4%. Both increases were significant (P <.05). Significant increases over that same period were seen for Salmonella resistance to ampicillin: chicken isolates, 16.7% to 40.5%; ground turkey isolates, 16.2% to 58.4%.

More than 90% of Campylobacter isolates come from chicken samples each year, with the rest from ground turkey, the report notes. It says macrolide and fluoroquinolone drugs are used to treat Campylobacter infections. Fluoroquinolone use in poultry production was banned in 2005.  Macrolide resistance in chicken samples remained low in 2011, at 4.3% for Campylobacter coli and 0.5% for Campylobacter jejuni, the testing showed.  C coli resistance to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone, peaked at 29.1% in 2005 and has dropped since then, reaching 18.1% in 2011, the report says. However, C jejuni resistance to the drug has continued an upward trend, from 15.2% in 2002 to 22.4% in 2011.   In addition, tetracycline resistance in both Campylobacter species jumped from 2010 to 2011, from 36.3% to 48.4% for C jejuni and from 39.2% to 29.1% for C coli.

The report also profiles resistance in Enterococcus species and Escherichia coli found in meat and poultry samples. Among other things, it notes that no Enterococcus isolates were resistant to vancomycin or linezolid, two drug classes that “are critically important in human medicine but are not used in food animal production.”  For E coli (most strains of which are nonpathogenic), prevalence numbers were lower in 2011 than 2010 but remained fairly high: chicken, 71.0%; ground turkey, 76.7%; ground beef, 44.8%; and pork chops, 30.4%.