The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday released two reports that measure antimicrobial resistance in certain bacteria isolated from raw meat and poultry, finding that generally many indicators point to falling resistance levels.
The data was collected through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System and published in two reports: The 2012 Retail Meat Report, which summarizes key findings in antimicrobial resistance related to raw chicken, ground turkey, ground beef and pork chops collected at retail stores, and the 2013 Retail Meat Interim Report, which contains data from January-December 2013 and focuses only on Salmonella.
Together, the reports reveal a number of "encouraging findings," FDA said:
• A recent decrease in third-generation cephalosporin resistance among poultry meats continued in 2012 and 2013, although current cephalosporin resistance levels are above 2002 levels.
• Resistance in Salmonella from retail chicken declined from a peak of 38% in 2009 to 28% in 2012 and continued to decline to 20% in 2013.
• Resistance in ground turkey peaked in 2011 at 22% and declined to 18% in 2012, falling to 9% by 2013.
• Salmonella from retail meats remained susceptible to ciprofloxacin, one of the most important antibiotics for treating Salmonella infections. Similarly, Salmonella from retail meats were susceptible to azithromycin, another important antibiotic recommended for treatment of Salmonella and other intestinal pathogens.
• While multi-drug resistant Salmonella (resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics) was detected in all retail meat sources there was a continuous decline in the overall proportion of Salmonella isolates that were multi-drug resistant between 2011 and 2013.
• In 2012, only 1% of C. jejuni from retail chicken were resistant to erythromycin, the drug of choice for treating Campylobacter infections.
The retail meat arm of the NARMS program collects samples of grocery store chicken, ground turkey, ground beef and pork chops, and tests for non-typhoidal Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli and Enterococcus, to determine whether such bacteria are resistant to various antibiotics used in human and veterinary medicine.
Enterococcus and most E. coli are not considered major foodborne pathogens but are included mainly because they are helpful in understanding how resistance occurs and spreads.
Both reports predate the FDA's December, 2013, announcement of Guidance 213, a strategy that asked animal drug companies to voluntarily revise the labeling of their medically important antimicrobials used in the feed and water of food-producing animals.
The guidance also placed the remaining therapeutic uses of these products under veterinary oversight by December 2016.
NARMS, a partnership between FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and USDA is important for monitoring trends in antimicrobial resistance among foodborne bacteria collected from humans, retail meats and food animals, FDA said.
In particular, NARMS helps FDA in making data-driven decisions on the approval of safe and effective antimicrobial drugs for animals, the agency said.
The National Chicken Council responded to the report on Monday afternoon, noting the positive trends in the report show that first-line antibiotics remain effective in treating illnesses.
Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., National Chicken Council vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said analyzing resistance patterns – as these reports do – is much more meaningful to public health outcomes than examining antibiotic sales data.
"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," she said. "One thing consumers should remember is 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 degrees F."