November 30, 2020
UK survey shows low levels of antimicrobial resistant E. coli in fresh beef, pork
A survey published by the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency revealed that levels of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) E. coli in fresh beef and pork are still low.
The study, which was conducted between January and December 2019, focused on beef and pork. In total, 315 beef and 313 pork samples were collected and tested at retail in the UK.
Due to a technical issue with selective agar (culture growth medium) affecting some samples tested in December, it was decided to exclude all meat samples in that month from analysis.
Less than 1% of samples had E. coli with the types of AMR being monitored. Only one of the 289 beef samples and three of 285 pork samples were positive for AmpC- or ESBL-producing E. coli. None of the counts of E. coli in beef and pork were above the detection limit of 100 bacteria per gram of meat on the two agars used.
No carbapenemase-resistant and colistin-resistant E. coli were found in any samples. These are considered critically important antibiotics. None of the isolates were resistant to chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, gentamycin, nalidixic acid, temocillin or tigecycline.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) worked with Hallmark Veterinary Compliance Services which arranged sampling, collection and posting of retail meat samples to APHA.
Meat samples came mainly from the UK, but also from Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and Spain. The second highest number of beef samples came from Ireland, while the second most pork samples were from Germany.
Across the UK, evidence shows the levels of AmpC-/ESBL-phenotype E. coli in beef and pork have remained at a low stable level in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Findings compare favorably to results published by the European Food Safety Authority from other countries that did EU monitoring surveys in 2015 and 2017.
Paul Cook, FSA's science lead in microbiological risk assessment, said the results were reassuring.
"We will continue our work to fill the evidence gap of the role that food plays in antimicrobial resistance. The risk of getting AMR-related infections through the consumption and handling of contaminated meat is very low, as long as you follow good hygiene and cooking practices," Cook said.
- Food Safety News