In a recent Consumer Reports article entitled, “The high cost of cheap chicken,” CR stated, “our tests reveal that superbugs can be found in about half of the chicken we tested.” Consumer Reports is claiming that a bacterium resistant to three or more antibiotics is a “superbug,” but nothing could be further from the truth – and they know it.
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated, “it is inaccurate and alarmist to define bacteria resistant to one, or even a few, antimicrobials as Superbugs if these same bacteria are still treatable by other commonly used antibiotics.”
A recent outbreak of Salmonellosis, with the large majority of cases on the West Coast, revealed many of the bacteria to be resistant to three or more rarely used antibiotics. But does that make them “Superbugs” by definition? No.
These bacteria were sensitive to the four most commonly prescribed antibiotics used to treat Salmonellosis.
A Superbug is defined as bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics used to treat the infection they cause, in some cases all antibiotics, and, because of this resistance, hospitalization and death are possible complications.
The CR article states that many of the bacteria they found in retail chicken were resistant to three or more “commonly prescribed antibiotics.”
I wish they would tell us what those antibiotics were because the most recent NARMS report, which they reference, said very little or no resistance to the “commonly prescribed antibiotics” used to treat Salmonella was found on the retail chicken that FDA tested.
Yet the CR report states that, “Our findings were similar to what the Food and Drug Administration sees in its NARMS report”.
Something does not add up here.
Nor does the “97 percent of the breasts we tested harbored bacteria that could make you sick” correlate very well with the most recent USDA report that only 2.6% percent of young broilers tested positive for Salmonella.
Why the difference? Because the CR report includes every bacterium they found in their very erroneous statement that they “could make you sick”.
Of the six classes of bacteria the report lists as pathogens, the CDC, FDA and USDA do not consider generic E. coli, enterococcus or Klebsiella pneumonia as causes of foodborne illnesses. And, to further challenge their statements, I, as a medical doctor, have no idea how they can justify saying that the E. coli found on chicken can cause a bladder infection.
Americans eat about 160 million servings of chicken every day, and the vast majority of them are cooking and handling chicken properly and having a safe experience every time.
I am glad none of my family was among the ill in the recent outbreak cited by CR, but I think that sometimes we need to keep the numbers in perspective when discussing food safety in this country as the headlines create the perception that we are failing miserably.
And we are not. We are getting better.
CR throws around the 80 percent number that all anti-animal ag groups use to sound the alarm. But they also know that 40 percent of that number are antibiotics not even approved for use in humans, and another 42 percent are the oxy- and chlor-tetracycline antibiotics that were important way back in the 1950s and 60s but have long since replaced by another class of far superior antibiotics.
They herald the fact that Denmark stopped using antibiotics for growth promotion in 2000. What they do not tell their readers is that Denmark saw an immediate increase in pig deaths of 25 percent, followed by a rise in the price of pork.
And, most important in this discussion, they did not tell readers that the use of veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics to treat disease had increased by 120 percent, according to the 2010 DANMAR report, the Danish antibiotic use monitoring system. The Danes now use more total antibiotics in the industry than they did before the ban, and there has been no drop in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The report calls for a ban of all antibiotics in poultry except for the “treatment of sick ones” and to pass PAMTA.
Consider this for one moment, please. Can you imagine what would happen to 30,000 chicks being raised in a clean, climate-controlled facility if a highly contagious disease, such as Coccidiosis, were to appear and only the “sick ones” could be treated? Anyone want to talk about humane treatment of the animals we raise for food?
Lastly, the report calls for USDA to stop its plans to expand HIMP to make my food safer while saving me tax dollars.
Why? Because it would cost union jobs and the organization they cite that is against this move has been known to sit in with the bargaining unit during negotiations with USDA/FSIS administrators. Not exactly an unbiased source.
The HIMP issue needs an entire op/ed of its own, so I will close by noting the report lists July 2013 as the only date referencing a HIMP pilot project in an attempt to lead the readers to the conclusion that this was a small, short-lived pilot project when, in fact, FSIS has been running this pilot for more than a decade and has irrefutable proof that these plants have a superior food safety record when compared to the conventional inspection system.
A system, by the way, that has not changed since Ike was our president.
Oh, and by the way, lest we forget, foodborne illnesses are down by more than 25 percent since 2000. We are getting better without the need for laws and misleading reports such as the one Consumer Reports published.
Happy Holidays to the FSN team and readers. Let them be safe ones for all. Use a digital thermometer.© Food Safety News