October 23, 2018

CSPI Releases Report on Antibiotic Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released a white paper titled “Antibiotic Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens.” The paper details information about more than 55 foodborne illness outbreaks since 1973. In 31 of those outbreaks, the bacteria were resistant to five or more antibiotics. Forty-eight of the 55 outbreaks were caused by Salmonella bacteria.

E. coli OutbreakThe foods most likely associated with antibiotic resistant bacteria included dairy products, ground beef, and poultry; those foods were associated with 31 out of 55 outbreaks. The paper states that the two populations that are most at risk of foodborne illness are children and immune-compromised people.

CSPI is critical of the FDA’s approach to dealing with this problem. In April 2012, the FDA issued guidance documents for industry that just “encourage” drug companies to change labeling on antibiotics used in animals to prevent their non-therapeutic use for growth promotion or feed efficiency. Scientists, including those at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, say that the government should issue regulations about antibiotic use that have enforcement capability. Furthermore, CSPI and other groups want legislation such as “The Preservation of Antibiotics for the Medical Treatment Act” or PAMTA, passed into law.

Those 55 outbreaks mentioned in the report sickened 20,601 people. More than 3,100 people were hospitalized, and 27 people died. Salmonella Typhimurium was the most frequently identified serotype, linked with 19 outbreaks. The second most frequently identified serotype was Salmonella Newport. Most of the outbreaks were resistant to at least one antibioitc, streptomycin. That drug is classified by the World Health Organization as “critically important” and by the FDA as “highly important” to human medicine.

Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) released a statement about this report. Slaughter said, “how many more outbreaks will it take before the USDA and FDA take this problem seriously? We have evidence that the practice of overusing antibiotics in food animals is ruining these drugs’ effectiveness, and every day that the government stands idly by, we move closer to the nightmare scenario where routine infections can no longer be cured by antibiotic treatment.” Delauro added, “it is clear that antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella present a very real risk to the public health. I urge the USDA to expeditiously review the petition that CSPI submitted more than two years ago and protect the public health from the clear risk of antibiotic-resistant foodborne pathogens.”


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