Antibiotic-resistant E. coli were found in chickens from a range of production methods – with the highest numbers in kosher birds – in a study at Northern Arizona University and other institutes.
Consumers shopping for raw chicken that does not contain antibiotic-resistant E. coli are in for a difficult search, according to a research team from four separate institutions, including Northern Arizona University (NAU).
For reasons that could not be immediately explained, kosher chickens carried the greatest amount of antibiotic-resistant E. coli, while organic chicken showed antibiotic-resistant bacteria levels just as high as conventional chicken. Only chickens ‘raised without antibiotics’ (RWA) came in with reduced but still contaminated, levels of the E. coli ‘superbug’.
The study looked at the products of various poultry production methods – kosher, organic, RWA and conventional – but not at the details of the processing methods behind them. Researchers said more study is needed, especially on kosher.
The antibiotic resistance in chicken study was released on the same day the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said drug-resistant superbugs are now an urgent public health danger in the United States.
The chicken researchers are from the Horace Mann Bronx Campus, Translational Genomics Research Institute of Flagstaff, NAU and George Washington University in Washington DC. Dr Bruce Hungate, director of the Ecosystem Science and Society Center, and NAU professor of biology, headed the team. The research was funded by the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research and the Ecosystem Science and Society Center, both at NAU.
“We examined the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on raw chicken marketed as conventional, organic, kosher and RWA,” the study states. “From April to June 2012, we purchased 213 samples of raw chicken from 15 locations in the New York City metropolitan area.”
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