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Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Has Emerged as a Foodborne Hazard, Says CSPI

WASHINGTON - Foodborne illnesses due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been occurring since the 1970s, according to a recent study
by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which signals that
antibiotics used on the farm may be causing more serious pathogens in
the nation’s food supply. CSPI’s analysis shows a steady increase of
such outbreaks in every decade since the 1970s, though that may be due
to increased testing and reporting, the group said. In its study of 35
documented outbreaks, raw milk, raw milk cheeses and ground beef
appeared to carry the resistant pathogens most frequently.

“Outbreaks from antibiotic resistant strains of Salmonella,
though rare, can not be ignored by our food safety regulators. The
problem has clearly emerged with respect to some high risk foods,” said
CSPI food safety
director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “Both humans and animals rely on
antibiotics to stay healthy. But overuse in some sectors may squander
their effectiveness and leave consumer vulnerable to hard-to-treat
foodborne infections.”

Multi-drug resistance was found in 10 out of 14 outbreaks of
antibiotic-resistant foodborne illness reported between 2000 and 2009,
according to the study. CSPI says the problem of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria needs much greater scrutiny by federal government if
antibiotics are to remain effective in treating human and veterinary
illnesses. Cataloging outbreaks of foodborne illness and then testing
the pathogens for antibiotic resistance is a critical step if
policymakers are to document the link between antibiotic use on farms
animals and human illness from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the group

Antibiotic resistance is an inevitable consequence of
antibiotic use, according to the CSPI report. The more antibiotics are
used, the more bacteria will develop resistance. Patients who develop
an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria are more likely to have
longer and more expensive hospitalizations and increased mortality.
And, the antibiotics that finally do provide successful treatment to
resistant bacteria can be more toxic to humans, with more serious side
effects than common antibiotics.

CSPI presented its findings at a one-day conference it
cosponsored with the Pew Charitable Trusts, Managing the Risk of
Foodborne Hazards: STECs and Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens. Besides
DeWaal, other presenters at the conference included the USDA
Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, FDA Deputy Commissioner
for Foods Michael Taylor, Patricia Griffin from the CDC, and Danilo Lo
Fo Wong from the World Health Organization.


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