Half of chicken breasts test positive for ‘superbug’ bacteria in US trial

About half of raw chicken breasts tested in a US trial carried antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacteria, one American consumer group said yesterday.

The Consumer Reports group is calling for stricter limits on medicines used on livestock. It could be more difficult to treat people if they became ill after eating chicken with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, argues the group which describes itself as the world’s largest independent product-testing organisation.

It tested for six types of bacteria in 316 raw chicken breasts purchased from retailers nationwide in July. Almost all contained potentially harmful bacteria, it said. Some 49.7% carried a bacterium resistant to three or more antibiotics, and 11% had two types of bacteria resistant to multiple drugs. Resistance was most common for the antibiotics used for growth promotion and disease treatment of poultry, the group said.

Consumer Reports urged passage of a law to restrict eight classes of antibiotics for use only to treat humans and sick animals. The law would be more effective, it said, than the Food and Drug Administration’s plan, announced last week, to phase down the non-medical use of antibiotics in livestock over three years.

In addition, it said the Agriculture Department should set levels for allowable salmonella and campylobacter bacteria in poultry and give its inspectors the power to prevent sale of poultry meat that contains salmonella bacteria that is resistant to multiple antibiotics.

The broiler industry said it would co-operate with the FDA’s planned phase-down of antibiotics although it says there is negligible risk from current use of the drugs.

— Reuters

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