This study was conducted to describe the occurrence of acquired resistance to antimicrobials used for growth promotion among bacteria isolated from swine, cattle and poultry in Denmark. Resistance to structurally related therapeutic agents was also examined. Three categories of bacteria were tested: 1) indicator bacteria (Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium), 2) zoonotic bacteria (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia enterocolitica), and 3) animal pathogens (E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS), Staphylococcus hyicus, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae). All antimicrobials used as growth promoters in Denmark and some structurally related therapeutic agents (in brackets) were included: Avilamycin, avoparcin (vancomycin), bacitracin, carbadox, flavomycin, monensin, olaquindox, salinomycin, spiramycin (erythromycin, lincomycin), tylosin (erythromycin, lincomycin), and virginiamycin (pristinamycin). Bacterial species intrinsically resistant to an antimicrobial were not tested towards that antimicrobial. Breakpoints for growth promoters were established by population distribution of the bacteria tested. A total of 2,372 bacterial isolates collected during October 1995 to September 1996 were included in the study. Acquired resistance to all currently used growth promoting antimicrobials was found. A frequent occurrence of resistance were observed to avilamycin, avoparcin, bacitracin, flavomycin, spiramycin, tylosin and virginiamycin, whereas resistance to carbadox, monensin, olaquindox and salinomycin was less frequent. The occurrence of resistance varied by animal origin and bacterial species. The highest levels of resistance was observed among enterococci, whereas less resistance was observed among zoonotic bacteria and bacteria pathogenic to animals. The association between the occurrence of resistance and the consumption of the antimicrobial is discussed. The results show the present level of resistance to growth promoters in bacteria from food animals in Denmark. They will form the baseline for comparison with future prospective studies, thereby enabling the determination of trends over time.