January 22, 2018

EWG Responds to FDA Criticism About Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has responded to FDA criticism about their analysis of antibiotic resistant bacteria on meat sold in American supermarkets. The FDA says that the EWG analysis “oversimplified data” from the NARMS 2011 Retail Meat Report. EWG states that “consumers have a right to know that federal scientists are finding antibiotic resistant bacteria on retail meat in high percentages.”

FDAThe FDA says it is “alarmist” to imply that pathogens resistant to one or two antimicrobials should be called “superbugs” if they are still treatable by other antibiotics. But EWG believes that “the development of resistance, even to only one antibiotic, is significant. It is well established that genes that confer the trait of antibiotic resistance readily transfer from one bacterium to others, that bacteria that develop resistance to one antibiotic can often withstand others, and that people can be allergic to entire classes of antibiotics, further limiting their options for treatment of infections.”

To the statement that consumers shouldn’t worry about antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus bacteria because they aren’t a “confirmed foodborne pathogen”, EWG says that Enterococcus are indicator bacteria. They signal that other microbes on the meat are also likely to be antibiotic-resistant. In addition, in 2002 FDA scientists wrote that “Enterococcus faecalis and E. faecium present serious challenges to the control of antimicrobial resistance as they are the third leading cause of nosocomial infections in intensive care units in the United States.”

EWG has created a list of Tips to Avoid Superbugs in Meat. Consumers can choose organic meats and meats raised without antibiotics. Buy from farmers and producers who use antibiotics judiciously, and ask your butcher how the meat was raised. Look for labels stating “USDA Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership.”

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