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. 2013 Jul 11;2:155.
doi: 10.12688/f1000research.2-155.v2. eCollection 2013.

Prevalence of Antibiotic-Resistant E. Coli in Retail Chicken: Comparing Conventional, Organic, Kosher, and Raised Without Antibiotics

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Free PMC article

Prevalence of Antibiotic-Resistant E. Coli in Retail Chicken: Comparing Conventional, Organic, Kosher, and Raised Without Antibiotics

Jack M Millman et al. F1000Res. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Retail poultry products are known sources of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli, a major human health concern. Consumers have a range of choices for poultry, including conventional, organic, kosher, and raised without antibiotics (RWA) - designations that are perceived to indicate differences in quality and safety. However, whether these categories vary in the frequency of contamination with antibiotic-resistant E. coli is unknown. We examined the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on raw chicken marketed as conventional, organic, kosher and RWA. From April - June 2012, we purchased 213 samples of raw chicken from 15 locations in the New York City metropolitan area. We screened E. coli isolates from each sample for resistance to 12 common antibiotics. Although the organic and RWA labels restrict the use of antibiotics, the frequency of antibiotic-resistant E. coli tended to be only slightly lower for RWA, and organic chicken was statistically indistinguishable from conventional products that have no restrictions. Kosher chicken had the highest frequency of antibiotic-resistant E. coli, nearly twice that of conventional products, a result that belies the historical roots of kosher as a means to ensure food safety. These results indicate that production methods influence the frequency of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on poultry products available to consumers. Future research to identify the specific practices that cause the high frequency of antibiotic-resistant E. coli in kosher chicken could promote efforts to reduce consumer exposure to this potential pathogen.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: No competing interests were disclosed.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
A. The percentage of resistant strains of E. coli as a function of the number of drugs tested for each of the four categories of chicken sampled. Values shown on the x-axis are cumulative. For example, the percentage of strains resistant to five or more drugs includes strains resistant to five to seven drugs. B. The average number of drugs to which strains of E. coli exhibited resistance in each of the four categories of chicken sampled. Values shown are means ± standard errors of the mean. Category was a significant factor in a one-way ANOVA (P=0.003). Bars with different letters are significantly different at P<0.05 (Tukey’s HSD). RWA-raised without antibiotics.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.. Antibiotic resistance across all categories tested, showing the number of drugs to which strains of E. coli were resistant among categories.
Values shown are means ± standard errors of the mean. Kosher was a significant factor in the analysis of variance (P=0.00374), whereas ‘raised without antibiotics’ (RWA) (P=0.122), organic (P=0.874), and all interactions (P<0.050) were not significant.

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Grant support

This work was funded by the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research and the Ecosystem Science & Society Center at Northern Arizona University.
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