Soaring levels of ‘superbugs’ found in UK supermarket meat – from Sally Fenn

A chickenOne in four UK supermarket chicken portions contain antibiotic resistant E. coli, a recent study revealed. This is four times higher than the levels found in a similar study last year.

The testing, carried out by Cambridge University, examined 189 samples of chicken and pork and found ESBL E. coli on 22 of 92 chicken samples from seven major UK supermarkets.

The research found soaring levels of resistance in chicken meat, with 24% of samples testing positive for ESBL E. coli, a bug resistant to some ‘critically important’ modern antibiotics.

Animals in intensive farms are often dosed daily with antibiotics in an attempt to prevent disease in crowded, unhealthy conditions.  Intensively reared poultry and pigs account for up to 95% of UK farm antibiotic use.

In response to the testing, the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics is calling for action from all UK supermarkets to tackle the use of antibiotics in their supply chains, by banning the routine preventative mass-medication of groups of animals, and dramatically curbing farm-use of the ‘critically important’ antibiotics.

An independent report published last year raised three main risks associated with high levels of antimicrobial use in food production: drug-resistant strains could be passed on through direct contact between humans and animals, or passed to humans when they prepare or eat the contaminated meat.  The drug-resistant strains and antimicrobials may also be excreted by the animals and pass into the environment.

Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies has spoken of an “antibiotic apocalypse” and warned that each year 50,000 people in the UK and the US are dying of infections that antibiotics used to be able to treat.

Read more about the Save our Antibiotics campaign here.