Antibiotic resistant bugs turn up again in turkey meat : the salt : nprDocument Transcript
5/2/13 7:54 PMAntibiotic-Resistant Bugs Turn Up Again In Turkey Meat : The Salt : NPRPage 1 of 4http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/01/180045788/antibiotic-resistant-bugs-turn-up-again-in-turkey-meatA truckload of live turkeys arrives at a Cargill plantin Springdale, Ark., in 2011. Most turkeys in theU.S. are regularly given low doses of antibiotics.Danny Johnston/APAntibiotic-Resistant Bugs Turn Up Again In TurkeyMeatConsumer groups are stepping up pres-sure on animal producers and their prac-tice of giving antibiotics to healthy animalsto prevent disease. In two new reports, thegroups say theyre worried that the preventive use of antibiotics is contributingto the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which get harder to treat inhumans and animals over time.This week, Consumer Reports released a report looking at bacteria on turkeymeat that are resistant to medicines used for humans. Scientists there tested 257samples of raw ground turkey meat that they purchased at grocery storesaround the country. They conclude that turkey meat that came from turkeysraised organically without antibiotics was significantly less likely to harbor re-sistant bacteria compared with meat from conventional turkeys that were givenantibiotics."We think these findings underscore a very important [government] recom-mendation that we dont need to feed healthy animals antibiotics every day topromote their growth and prevent disease," says Urvashi Rangan, director ofthe food safety and sustainability group at Consumer Reports.The findings came on the heels of a report from another consumer advocacy or-ganization, the Environmental Working Group, which analyzed data collectedby the federal governments National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Sys-tem. It also documented high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in store-bought meats.The Food and Drug Administration took issue with this EWG analysis, saying
5/2/13 7:54 PMAntibiotic-Resistant Bugs Turn Up Again In Turkey Meat : The Salt : NPRPage 2 of 4http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/01/180045788/antibiotic-resistant-bugs-turn-up-again-in-turkey-meatit came to "misleading conclusions." But meanwhile, the agency has weighed inon the complex problem of antibiotic resistance by calling for the judicious useof antibiotics in food-producing animals."One way FDA is working to address this issue [of resistance] is to phase outthe use of antibiotics in food animals for growth promotion and feedefficiency," says Jalil Isa, a spokesman for the agency. "FDA believes thesedrugs should be used only in situations where they are necessary for ensuringanimal health, and done so under the oversight of a veterinarian."The most recent data from the FDA show that about 30 million pounds of an-tibiotics each year are purchased for use in farm animals. Thats about fourtimes more than what doctors prescribe to people.Around 74 percent of those drugs arent used to treat sick animals. Instead,farmers administer them at low doses to help animals grow faster and preventinfections.Diana Goodpasture of Akron, Ohio, knows what its like to be sickened by astrain of salmonella bacteria thats resistant to antibiotic treatment. In June2011, after she ate a turkey burger that she had grilled, she became so sick thatshe was hospitalized for five days."It was terrible; it was the worst thing I ever experienced in my life," Goodpas-ture tells The Salt. She was infected with salmonella Heidelberg that was resis-tant to three types of antibiotics: ampicillin, streptomycin and tetracycline. Thetainted meat was part of a massive ground turkey recall.Consumer Reports briefed several government agencies on its findings, whichwere released April 30, on bacteria in ground turkey meat. In an email, theFDAs Isa says the report leaves out information that would have been helpful,such as "details about which types of bacteria were found to be resistant to
5/2/13 7:54 PMAntibiotic-Resistant Bugs Turn Up Again In Turkey Meat : The Salt : NPRPage 3 of 4http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/01/180045788/antibiotic-resistant-bugs-turn-up-again-in-turkey-meatwhich antibiotics."UPDATE, Wednesday, May 1, 12:30 p.m.The FDA acknowledges that it overlooked a table in the report that does in-clude the details on which bacteria were resistant to individual antibiotics.And the original post continues...The National Turkey Federation, meanwhile, says it believes turkey producersare using antibiotics judiciously — and that their practices help keep turkeyflocks healthy. They point out that in general, the antibiotics used most in rais-ing turkeys are not the same antibiotics that are relied upon to treat people.NTF President Joel Brandenberger says animal agriculture is only one piece ofthe puzzle in the problem of antibiotic resistance, but he recognizes FDAs ef-forts to work with producers to restrict their use of the drugs."The National Turkey Federation has been cautiously supportive of FDAsstrategy," says Brandenberger.According to poultry scientist Michael Hulet at Penn State University, the poul-try industry has already stopped using a lot of the drugs that are still used totreat infections in humans, like ciprofloxacin. And, he says, when the industrydoes use the same drugs that doctors prescribe to sick people — drugs liketetracycline — its usually only to treat animals that are truly sick, not to pre-vent disease."The industry has really cut back on the number of drugs used [for routine pre-vention of disease in healthy animals] because of some of the concern about re-sistance," Hulet says.But Gail Hansen with the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial
5/2/13 7:54 PMAntibiotic-Resistant Bugs Turn Up Again In Turkey Meat : The Salt : NPRPage 4 of 4http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/01/180045788/antibiotic-resistant-bugs-turn-up-again-in-turkey-meatFarming says its impossible to confirm whether the poultry industrys claimsare true, because there are no publicly available data on how the drugs are ac-tually used. "So far, all we really have is trust and no way to verify," saysHansen.Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have proposed new legislation that would restrictthe use of antibiotics in food animals and eight classes of antibiotics for humanuse only."We need to take action to confront this growing public health crisis before rou-tine infections like strep throat become fatal," Democratic New York Rep.Louise Slaughter, author of the legislation, said in a statement.