WASHINGTON, April 13, 2015--The presence of salmonella resistant to antimicrobials in meat sold in U.S. grocery stores is continuing to decrease since its peak in 2009, according to two U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports released today.

The reports measure antimicrobial resistance in certain bacteria isolated from raw meat and poultry collected through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS). The reports – the 2012 Retail Meat Report and the 2013 Retail Meat Interim Report – showed mostly decreasing antimicrobial resistance trends.

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes one of the most common intestinal infections in the United States. Since the beginning of the 1990s, salmonella strains that are resistant to a range of antimicrobials have emerged and are now a serious public health concern, notes the World Health Organization.

According to FDA’s data, resistance in salmonella from retail chicken declined from a peak of 38 percent in 2009 to 28 percent in 2012 and continued to decline to 20 percent in 2013. Resistance in ground turkey peaked in 2011 at 22 percent and declined to 18 percent in 2012, falling to 9 percent by 2013.

Both FDA reports cover time periods that are prior to FDA's publication in December 2013 of an industry guidance aimed at eliminating the use of medically important antimicrobials in humans for production or performance purposes in livestock. FDA also intends to require veterinary oversight of the use of antimicrobials in feed and water through the proposed rule, set for implementation in 2016.

The Animal Health Institute said the reports show “that antibiotics can and are being used to effectively keep food animals healthy while minimizing the potential for transfer of resistant bacteria from animals to people.”

The institute noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed 18 specific pathogens of “great concern” in the United States, and only two of those – Salmonella and Campylobacter – were linked to animals.

“These reports provide a strong case that the continued judicious use of antibiotics by poultry and livestock producers is aiding in the reduction of resistance in various foodborne pathogens,” Ashley Peterson, the National Chicken Council’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said in a press release. “Analyzing resistance patterns, as these reports do, is much more meaningful to public health outcomes than examining antibiotic sales data.”

In a report last week, the FDA released data that showed a sharp increase in antibiotic sales between 2009 and 2013. FDA reported that sales of antibiotics for agriculture climbed 16 percent in the United States between 2009 and 2012. More than 32 million pounds of antibiotics intended for use on American farms were sold in 2012 alone — a nearly 8 percent rise over the previous year.

Some scientists and public health advocates have criticized the long-standing practice of using antibiotics in livestock, saying it is behind the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Agribusinesses have defended the practice, saying animal drugs are needed to help keep livestock healthy, and boost meat production.

According to the CDC, salmonella is estimated to cause 1 million illnesses in the United States every year, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.

Peterson noted that consumers should remember that all pathogens potentially found on raw chicken, regardless of strain or resistance profile, are fully destroyed by handling the product properly and cooking it to an internal temperature of 165°F.


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