Category Archives: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Chick-fil-A announces plans to serve only antibiotic-free chicken. What about the rest of the ingredients?

iStock_000021182570Small.jpgSounds like a good move, right? Chick-fil-A wants consumers to “Eat Mor Chikin” so they’re planning on only using chickens raised without antibiotics within the next five years.

“Since our family business began 67 years ago, we have focused on our customers. It’s why we insist upon using the highest quality ingredients,” Dan Cathy, president and chief executive officer of Chick-fil-A, said in a statement. “We want to continue that heritage, and offering antibiotic-free chicken is the next step.”

Chick-fil-A’s announcement comes amid a growing awareness about the problem of antibiotic resistance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that antibiotics in livestock are contributing to the rise of dangerous bacteria. Many antibiotics that farmers give food-producing animals are also used to treat sick humans.

Chick-fil-A has made other changes to its ingredients in recent years, such as removing yellow dye from its chicken soup. The company is also testing the possibility of taking out other food additives, including artificial ingredients in the buns and high fructose corn syrup in dressings and sauces.

While certainly thinks the move to antibiotic-free chicken is a good one, we wonder why Chick-fil-A is not focusing more on the ingredients they’re using to prepare their menu items. O.k., they removed the yellow dye from their chicken soup. That’s great. But have you looked at the ingredient list in their chicken salad? They include monosodium glutamate, caramel color, TBHQ, high fructose corn syrup, calcium disodium EDTA and Polysorbate 80. From the president and CEO’s statement, perhaps we should be led to believe that they’re using only the highest quality MSG?

Antibiotic-free chicken is a welcome change for Chick-fil-A, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg here and the rest of that iceberg is huge. We don’t want to discourage any moves made in the right direction. We just need several more moves before we can honestly find that Chick-fil-A is listening to consumer concerns about product quality and healthier eating.

So what about the ingredients that can’t be listed on the label?

We spend a lot of time here at talking about ingredients. Our site highlights controversial items in our food supply and explains what makes those ingredients a concern for our health. But there are ingredients that we won’t find listed on any label that are just as controversial for our health and safety as those that are. And those ingredients can typically be traced to fresh poultry and livestock products all over America. And they’re coming from antibiotic feed additives used for livestock and poultry.

Between 2001 and 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly reviewed the safety of 30 penicillin and tetracycline antibiotic feed additives approved for “nontherapeutic use”. Nontherapeutic use refers to using antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent disease in typically crowded, often unsanitary conditions in livestock and poultry. The Natural Resources Defense Council obtained the previously undisclosed review documents from the FDA as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the agency and subsequent litigation made necessary by FDA’s failure to provide any of the requested documents.

The FDA’s scientific reviewers’ findings show that none of these products would likely be approvable as new additives for nontherapeutic livestock use if submitted today, under current FDA guidelines. Eighteen of the 30 reviewed feed additives were deemed to pose a “high risk” of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply, based on the information available. The remainder lacked adequate data for the reviewers to make any determination and their safety remains unproven. In addition, the FDA concluded in their review that at least 26 of the reviewed feed additives do not satisfy even the safety standards set by FDA in 1973.

The FDA has not revoked any of the antibiotic additive approvals or required any drug manufacturer to resubmit a product for a new safety assessment following the agency’s reviews, though two were voluntarily withdrawn by their makers.

The significance of these findings extends far beyond the 30 antibiotic feed additives reviewed. The FDA data indicate that the types of antibiotics in the reviewed additives — tetracyclines and penicillins — together make up nearly half of all the antibiotics used in animal agriculture. Other feed additives with these same antibiotics, including generics, that are approved for similar uses would likely pose a similar risk of promoting antibiotic resistance. This risk was recognized by the FDA in 1977 when it proposed to withdraw approvals for animal feed additives containing penicillin and most tetracyclines.

The use of tetracyclines and penicillins in animal feed is part of a larger problem of antibiotic overuse. Approximately 70 percent of all sales of medically important antibiotics in the United States are for livestock use. Scientists have demonstrated that nontherapeutic use of antibiotics to raise livestock promotes drug-resistant bacteria that can migrate from livestock facilities and threaten public health. These bacteria can spread resistant traits to other bacteria, and some of these shared traits also can confer resistance to antibiotics used primarily in human medicine.

Late last year, the FDA announced a plan to phase out some antibiotics that promote weight gain. But that proposed phase out was planned as voluntary, not mandatory, and to date nothing’s been done.

We’ve all heard reports about antibiotic resistance and probable consequences — superbugs that can infect populations that may not respond to antibiotics, or more probably, everyday infections that are treated with antibiotics successfully now that could become resistant over time becoming tremendous medical problems. All the while, our livestock and poultry are fed antibiotics that can contribute to those reports. All for the sake of “bigger food.” It’s definitely time for the FDA to take action and put an end to this potential threat to the health of Americans.

Evidence of widespread ground turkey contamination makes every effort to keep our community informed on the latest food recalls that happen just about every day. We try to stay as up-to-date as possible regarding breaking news on any and every kind of food contamination. And today is no different than every other day when it comes to reporting on this disturbing category of food news.

A new study from Consumer Reports is showing that well over half of the ground turkey samples they examined are contaminated with fecal bacteria. In addition more than 90 percent of ground turkey samples tested contained at least one of the five bacteria the test was designed to find: salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, enterococcus and campylobacter. The test examined 257 retail samples from 21 states and 27 different brands and every sample was purchased at a retail establishment.

Specifically, 69% of samples Consumer Reports tested contained enterococcus and 60% tested positive for E.coli. Both of these bacteria are associated with fecal contamination. Some of the bacteria found in these samples can cause food poisoning, urinary bloodstream and other infections.

The response from industry groups was immediate. The National Turkey Federation refuted the study as “alarmist,” stating “The magazine reported high levels of certain pathogens on the samples tested, but it is important to note that the two most prevalent, enterococcus and generic E. coli, are not considered sources of foodborne illness.”

As if the evidence of fecal contamination wasn’t enough to alarm consumers about the consumption of ground turkey, Consumer Reports also found that many of the disease-causing organisms that were tested were resistant to the antibiotics used to fight them. Consumer Reports tested both conventional turkey meat and turkey meat from birds that were not fed antibiotics. Conventional ground turkey was compared to ground turkey labeled “no antibiotics,” “organic,” (which doesn’t use antibiotics) or “raised without antibiotics” — and all were found to be equally likely to contain the bacteria the magazine included in its study. However, bacteria on the antibiotic-free ground turkey was less likely to be antibiotic-resistant.

The Environmental Working Group recently released a study showing that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise with 81% of raw ground turkey, 69% of raw pork chops and 55% of raw ground beef purchased at retail during 2011 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Betsy Booren, Chief Scientist of the American Meat Institute responded to the concerns regarding antibiotic resistant bacteria in the Consumer Reports Study saying, “The U.S. meat and poultry industry supports the judicious use of antibiotics. The American Meat Institute recognizes that concerns exist and supports efforts now under way to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion.” will follow the responses to this important research from Consumer Reports. In the meantime, you can read more about their findings in the June Consumer Reports article here:

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the American meat supply stays as up-to-date as possible regarding the issues that we face in our food supply. Whether it’s product recalls, toxic heavy metals, or any other contaminant, we want to make sure that our community is well-informed about any of the variety of dangers lurking in our foods.

Today we read a fascinating article that raises questions regarding the safety of our meats. A large proportion of American meat is contaminated with superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of recently released government tests.

The latest federal report published last year found that 81 percent of ground turkey, 55 percent of ground beef and 39 percent of chicken parts were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant microbes. These are the germs that are responsible for countless numbers of cases of infection and food poisoning. The ability these germs have acquired to resist antibiotics make the illnesses they are responsible for more difficult to treat and, in some cases, those illnesses are lethal.

Experts attribute the development of antibiotic-resistant microbes to the extensive overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming. Meat producers regularly give their livestock antibiotics to promote growth or to treat infections. It is thought that about 80% of pharmaceuticals sold in the U.S. are sold specifically for meat production.

The FDA can help to stop the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs by stopping the overuse of these pharmaceuticals. In addition, the overcrowding of livestock has an adverse affect on animal health. The need for excessive antibiotics could be reversed by allowing for increased space for livestock on farms. These efforts could have a great affect on the existence of antibiotic-resistant germs in our meat supply.

It has been shown that there are strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria that have jumped from animals to humans, making the findings of this recent study even more concerning. will continue to follow information on this important story as it develops. As always, we will keep our community informed and educated on the issues they face daily regarding the safety of our food supply.