September 12, 2018
Survey finds highest-level contamination of chickens in UK at less than 1%
There has been a notable reduction in the presence of campylobacter in chickens on sale in the UK, with only 0.8% of them testing positive for the highest level of campylobacter (over 1,000 colony forming units per gramme, or cfu/g), as compared with 3.8% in March 2018, according to the results of a survey published last week by the UK Food Standards Agency.
The survey was commissioned to assess the amount of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria in fresh and frozen chicken and fresh pork mince on sale in shops in the UK.
The survey involved the testing of campylobacter in chicken samples and salmonella in pork mince samples for the occurrence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. The survey also looked for AMR in other bacteria in both types of meat including enterococci, klebsiella and escherichia coli.
According to the survey, campylobacter resistance to the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin antibiotic has decreased in the last four years, with a 15.33 % reduction of resistant campylobacter jejuni, and 1.45% reduction of resistant campylobacter coli.
The study also provided some reassurance that AMR prevalence is currently low in enterococci and klebsiella species, but has highlighted the potential need for continued monitoring relating to ESBL-producing e. coli and erythromycin resistance in campylobacter species.
Salmonella was detected in 1.5% of pork mince samples, and while campylobacter spp. was detected in 25.1% of chicken samples, only one sample (a whole chicken) gave a result of the highest level of contamination (over 1,000 cfu/g).
'Drive for excellence'
Reacting to the survey results, British Poultry Council (BPC) Chief Executive Richard Griffiths said they were "delighted to see British poultry meat sector's drive for excellence in bird health and welfare deliver responsible use of antibiotics and safeguarding their efficacy".
"Poultry is half of the meat eaten in the UK and we use less than 9.7% of the total antibiotics licensed for food-producing animals. We have successfully reduced our antibiotic use by 82% in the last six years and have stopped all preventative treatments as well as the use of colistin. The highest priority antibiotics that are critically important for humans are used only as a 'last resort'", he said.
The British poultry meat sector has so far stopped the prophylactic use of antibiotics, or use of antibiotics to prevent disease, as well as the use of colistin antibiotic. It has banned the use of third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins.
It has also restricted the use of antibiotics classified as highest priority critically important by the WHO.
It only uses fluoroquinolones and macrolides as a last resort, BPC said.