WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013 – The Environmental Working Group is touting government research [http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm335102.htm] that, it asserts, “has documented startlingly high percentages of supermarket meat containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
However, FDA says the “alarmist” EWG report oversimplifies the data in the study. The National Pork Producers Council and National Chicken Council also faulted EWG’s statement.
The annual National Antimicrobial Resistance Survey (NARMS) found that store-bought meat tested in 2011 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of raw ground turkey, 69 percent of raw pork chops, 55 percent of raw ground beef and 39 percent of raw chicken parts, according to EWG. “Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets,” said EWG nutritionist Dawn Undurraga in an analysis funded in part by Applegate, an organic and natural meat processor.
“While we are always concerned when we see antimicrobial resistance, we believe the EWG report oversimplifies the NARMS data,” FDA’s Siobhan DeLancey said. “EWG’s evaluation of the NARMS findings does not take into account the differences in the public health importance of different bacteria and antibiotics, and we believe that it is alarmist to imply that pathogens resistant to one, or even a few, antimicrobials should be called “superbugs,” she said.
“We do not believe that EWG fully considered important factors that put these results in context, such as whether the bacterium is a foodborne pathogen (Enterococcus is not considered a foodborne pathogen), which drug(s) the bacterium are resistant to (for example, most Enterococcus faecalis is naturally resistant to lincosamides), and whether the main therapies for the pathogen are still effective (NARMS data indicate that first-line treatments are still effective),” DeLancey, who is veterinary medicine team lead in FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said in an email to Agri-Pulse.
EWG “is using selective and incomplete 2011 government data on retail meat samples to blame America’s livestock and poultry farmers for the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant illnesses in people,” the National Pork Producers Council said in a statement. “In fact, 2000 to 2010 data from the federal National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System show a very low incidence of pathogenic bacteria on meat and stable to declining rates of those bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics,” NPPC went on.
Numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments, including at least one from FDA, have shown “negligible” risk to human health of antibiotics use in livestock and poultry, NPPC adds.
The National Chicken Council also disputes EWG’s spin, saying in a “tweet” that meat tested in the NARMS survey found “very low percentage of salmonella and other bacteria” in 2002-2011.
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