Posted September 20, 2013
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report on the threats of antibiotic resistance, connecting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals with antibiotic-resistant foodborne pathogens.  The CDC report is available here.
The report categorizes and addresses 18 resistant microorganisms into three threat levels of urgent, serious, and concerning, using factors such as health impact, economic impact, 10-year projections and barriers to prevention, according to a Food Safety News article available here.  According to the report, while the majority of drug-resistant infections occur in healthcare settings, “concern is growing over antibiotic-resistant infections from food.”  Six foodborne illnesses were noted: Clostridium difficile, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Salmonella Typhi, Shingella, and Staphylococcus aureus. 
Antibiotics are commonly used to “promote the growth of food-producing animals and to prevent, control and treat disease.”  Overuse, however, can promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the food supply and cause resistant infections in humans.”
The report states, “Because of the link between antibiotic use in food-producing animals and the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, antibiotics should be used in food-producing animals only under veterinary oversight and only to manage and treat infectious diseases, not promote growth.”
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “We continue to promote the concept that, if an animal is sick, using antibiotics to treat the animal is obviously important…We also know that there are specific situations in which the widespread use of antimicrobials in agriculture has resulted in an increase in resistant infections in humans.”
Politico reports that Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s foodborne, waterborne, and environmental disease division, said a study released in June “shows how the resistance to an important antibiotic can flow from the agricultural sector through food and it’s not theoretical at all.”  The CDC study is available here.  The Politico article is available here.
In completing this study, government and university researchers say they “collected thousands of bacteria samples from cattle, swine, turkeys, processed meat, and people in the U.S. and Canada over a five-year period.”  They “tracked the same antibiotic-resistant genes in animals directly to the meat sold in grocery stores and to the people who ate the meat.” 
Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, said that most of the “antibiotics traditionally relied on by poultry producers have been banned by the FDA for the use on chickens and turkeys.”  David Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said the pork industry “is judicious with is use of antibiotics.”


Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) called on the Obama administration to take action in light of the CDC report in a press release, available here.  Rep. Slaughter introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act in March and co-sponsored the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals Act, which was introduced in February.