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Weekly Overview: Danes Mystified by Antibiotic Resistance in Chicken

27 September 2012, at 11:23pm

ANALYSIS - Last year, 2011, saw a sharp rise in the percentage of Danish chicken meat samples positive for bacteria with the ESBL resistance gene. This is a curious result as cephalosporins, which are associated with the development of this type of resitance, have not been used in Danish poultry production for 10 years. Fears of overuse of antibiotics hit German poultry meat consumption temporarily but the annual per-capita uptake figure has since recovered to its previous level.

Nearly half of the samples from chicken meat imported into Denmark contain ESBL bacteria and for the first time, according to the new Danish surveillance report, DANMAP, the level is almost as high in Danish chicken meat.

ESBL bacteria are among the most rapidly increasing global resistance problems. ESBL bacteria are resistant to the broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents, cephalosporins, that are widely used for treating life-threatening infections in humans.

The annual DANMAP report from 2011 shows that almost one in every two samples of both imported and Danish chicken meat contains ESBL bacteria. It is significantly more than found earlier in Danish chicken meat. In 2010, almost one in every 10 samples of Danish chicken meat was positive.

"The high occurrence of resistance to cephalosporins in chicken meat is alarming because there is a risk that bacteria are transferred from chicken meat to humans," commented Yvonne Agersø, Senior Researcher at the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark.

Poultry meat consumption in Germany is reported to be stable although shifts between the types of meat and meat products might be due to varied price developments in the individual segments. With a volume of approximately 7.3 million tonnes, the demand for meat and meat products remains unchanged as compared to the previous year, according to InterMeat, a trade show that took place in Düsseldorf this week.

As the result of adverse publicity about use of antibiotics in the poultry industry, the consumption of poultry meat dropped for a short while but the latest figures point to a recovery back to about 11.5kg per person.

Taking place in Naples at the end of last week was the general assembly of a.v.e.c., the European association of poultry producers and processors. One of the issues that sparked debate was a recent report that Brazilian poultry producers have been promised a tax break by the government, which the a.v.e.c. participants consider to be unfair competition.