The Food Standards agency has vowed to tackle the use of antibiotics in livestock farming after new research found growing levels of resistant E.coli bacteria in supermarket meat.
The study commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics found that 24% of samples of supermarket chicken meat tested positive for ESBL E. coli, a type of E. coli resistant to the ‘critically important’ modern cephalosporin antibiotics. This is four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015, in which just 6% of chicken tested positive for ESBL E. coli.
The research carried out by Cambridge University also found 51% of the E. coli from pork and poultry samples were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat over half of lower urinary-tract infections, whilst 19% were resistant to gentamicin, an important human antibiotic used to treat more serious upper urinary-tract infections.
The study looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK: Asda, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
The Food Standards Agency has since acknowledged the significant threat to human health from antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and pledged to cut the use of antibiotics on farms.
The agency’s response has been praised by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, which urged it to act decisively to protect the public. “'It's fantastic the FSA has pledged to work with food businesses and retailers to reduce farm antibiotic use,” said Emma Rose from the campaign group. “With antibiotic resistance predicted to kill one person every three seconds by 2050, the FSA must commit to ending the routine mass medication of groups of animals. Such practices are putting our health at risk - and should have no place in the supply chains of responsible UK supermarkets.”