Warning over Antibiotics as Chicken Meat Superbug Claims Human Lives; Poultry Farmers Have Given It Up but the Same Drug Is Used in Pig and Dairy Farming

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 27, 2013 | Go to article overview

Warning over Antibiotics as Chicken Meat Superbug Claims Human Lives; Poultry Farmers Have Given It Up but the Same Drug Is Used in Pig and Dairy Farming


Byline: SION MORGAN sion.morgan@walesonline.co.uk

ABOUT 280 people in the UK and 1,519 across Europe are killed every year by an antibiotic-resistant form of E.coli found in chicken meat according to a new report.

The ESBL (extended spectrum beta lactamase) E.coli superbug, which causes deadly blood infections has become an increasing problem on farms.

Over the past decade resistance has been built up against modern antibiotics known as third and fourth generation "cephalosporins", commonly used in chicken production and classified as "critically important" by the World Health Organisation.

Until now it has been difficult to work out how much of the problem can be attributed to the medical or farming sectors.

But Dutch scientists found that 56% of ESBL-resistant genes in a human E.coli strain were identical to genes found in E.coli present in retail chicken.

Since 2012, all British poultry producers have voluntarily stopped using cephalosporins but the same type of antibiotics are still used in pig production and dairy farming.

Bodies that promote organic food and farming, including the Soil Association and Organic Centre Wales, have been keen to point out to consumers the differences between poultry reared using intensive farming methods and those raised organically, but they have also been actively campaigning against the over-use of antibiotics in poultry production. Neil Pearson, from Organic Centre Wales said: "There are clearly animal welfare issues with intensive poultry farming that are addressed when birds are reared organically, but people often forget the potential impact on human health.

"As well as prohibiting the routine use of antibiotics, organic standards do not allow the use of synthetic yolk colourants and other feed additives to ensure that organic birds have a far more natural diet."

A spokesperson for the British Poultry Council said British chicken was reared to standards that "include rigorous controls of the use of medicine under veterinary supervision" and pointed to its antibiotic stewardship programme, which aims to better understand antibiotics use in poultry. …

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