August 10, 2023


Low levels of antimicrobial resistance in E. coli found on UK beef and pork, survey states




There are low levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in E. coli on beef and pork meat on sale in the United Kingdom, according to a survey.


The report was produced by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) under contract with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).


In 2021, 105 samples of fresh beef and pork on retail sale in the UK were sampled between October and December and investigated for E. coli. In previous surveys, 300 samples were tested throughout one year. Reduced numbers were due to a delayed start following exit from the European Union and lab capacity.


E. coli isolates are useful indicators of AMR. They are ubiquitous in animals and allow scientists to monitor the presence of AMR typically circulating in food-producing animals.


Less than 1% of beef and 4% of pork samples possessed an Extended Spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) or AmpC-expressing E. coli. No meat samples, before enrichment, had background or AmpC-/ESBL-phenotype E. coli counts above EU detection levels, indicating low numbers of these bacteria. However, post-enrichment, one beef and four pork samples yielded AMR E. coli. Results were similar to the 2015, 2017 and 2019 surveys.


Two pork samples were positive for AmpC-producing E. coli, and two were positive for ESBL-producing E. coli. The beef isolate had an E. coli with an AmpC + ESBL-expressing phenotype.


ESBL and AmpC enzymes confer resistance to cephalosporins. No beef and pork samples were positive for E. coli with resistance to last-resort carbapenem or colistin antimicrobials.


In the five E. coli isolates, resistance was seen to some antibiotics. The beef isolate was resistant to all four cephalosporin antibiotics it was tested against (cefepime, cefotaxime, cefoxitin, and ceftazidime), while the pork isolates were resistant to at least two of these antibiotics. All five E. coli isolates resisted ampicillin but not amikacin, temocillin, or tigecycline.


Most beef samples were from the UK, but some came from Ireland, Brazil, Poland, Scotland and Spain. Most pork samples were domestic, but others were from Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands.


Samples were collected from retail across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


- Food Safety News

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