Study Finds 95% of Non-Organic
Poultry Contaminated with Feces
& Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Minneapolis Study Finds 90% of Non-Organic Poultry Contaminated with
Feces & Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

December 9, 2002

CONTACT: Kendra Kimbirauskas, Sierra Club, (612) 702-7298
David Wallinga, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 612-870-3418,
cell 612-203-5633

Bacteria on Poultry Puts Twin Cities Consumers at Risk, New Study Finds

Chicken and Turkey From Area Groceries Test Positive for Resistant Microbes

Minneapolis - The first study to examine the presence of multiple
antibiotic-resistant bacteria in brand-name poultry products finds that
many Twin Cities consumers, along with their chicken and turkey, are
ingesting bacteria resistant to important human antibiotics like
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), Synercid, and Tetracycline.

According to tests conducted by an independent laboratory for
Sierra Club and the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, 95% of the whole chickens tested were contaminated with
Campylobacter bacteria - 62% of the Campylobacter tested were resistant to
1 or multiple antibiotics. Salmonella bacteria were found in 45% of ground
turkey purchased, and 62% of Salmonella from turkey tested for resistance
was found resistant to 1 or more antibiotics. Salmonella and Campylobacter
bacteria are the two most common bacterial causes of U.S. foodborne
illness, and are responsible for over 3.3 million infections and more than
650 deaths every year.

"Most patients with bacterial food poisoning don't need to be treated with
antibiotics. But for those whose infections spread beyond the intestine,
antibiotic treatment can be lifesaving," said David Wallinga, M.D.,
Co-Director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Food and
Health Program. "As bacteria on food get more and more resistant to the
antibiotics doctors rely on for treating infections, it puts patients'
lives at risk. This study confirms that supermarket chicken or turkey can
be an important source of drug-resistant infections."

The study was conducted on 200 fresh whole chickens and 200 packages of
ground turkey purchased from grocery stores in Minneapolis and Des Moines.
Whole chickens tested included two popular brands, Country Pride and Gold'N
Plump, owned by ConAgra Poultry Group and St. Cloud-based Gold'N Plump
Poultry, respectively. Ground turkey tested belonged to the Jennie-O and
Honeysuckle White brands. Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc., is a subsidiary of
Austin-based Hormel Foods, and Honeysuckle White is a subsidiary of
Minnetonka-based Cargill, Inc.

Other findings of the lab tests include:
· Both Salmonella and Campylobacter contaminated 14% of the Gold'N Plump
chickens and 32% of the Country Pride chickens that were tested for both
· More than 6% of Campylobacter from chickens, and more than 8% of
Camplyobacter from all poultry subsequently tested for resistance was found
resistant to Cipro. Cipro is the "medicine of choice" for presumptively
treating severe cases of bacterial food poisoning, as well as traveler's
diarrhea and other infections in adults. FDA has estimated (2001) that
more than 153,000 people contracted Cipro-resistant Campylobacter from
eating contaminated chicken in 1999.
· One package of Jennie-O ground turkey was contaminated both with
Salmonella resistant to 4 antibiotics, and Campylobacter resistant to 6
antibiotics, including to Cipro.
· Twenty percent of Country Pride chicken, and 15% of Gold'N Plump chicken
carried Salmonella. Among the Salmonella bacteria from chicken tested for
resistance, 6% were resistant to 4 or more antibiotics.
· More than 90% of Enterococci bacteria recovered from chicken or turkey,
and tested for resistance, was resistant to the critical human antibiotic,
Synercid. Strains of resistant Enterococci are a growing cause of
infections and deaths in hospitals; Synercid is one of the few antibiotics
still effective against them.

For decades, antibiotics have dramatically reduced illness and death from
bacterial infections. The effectiveness of these life-saving drugs has
begun to wane because antibiotics are being overused. An important source
of overuse is factory poultry and livestock farms, which routinely feed
antibiotics to animals that aren't sick-both to promote growth and to
compensate for crowded, stress-inducing and unsanitary conditions that are
conducive to infection.

Scientific consensus now says that antibiotic use in food animals
contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria transferred to humans, mainly
through contaminated food. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates
that 70% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to pigs, poultry and cattle
for reasons other than treating disease. The majority of such medicines
are "medically important," and are identical, or nearly so, to human

"Fortunately, consuming meat with antibiotic-resistant bacteria is not
inevitable," said Kendra Kimbirauskas, Sierra Club's Minnesota-based
Antibiotics in Agriculture Organizer. "Shoppers can look for meat from
animals raised without antibiotics and can urge their grocery stores and
favorite restaurants to offer the same. Consumers should also cook meat
thoroughly and follow safe meat-handling procedures. In the end, however,
the best solution is for poultry producers to stop giving antibiotics to
birds or flocks that aren't sick."

The report is available at

Des Moines Register


Anti-drug bacteria found in meat
Des Moines Register (Iowa)

A new study of ground turkey and chicken from supermarkets in Des Moines
and Minneapolis found the meat heavily contaminated by drug-resistant
bacteria associated with food poisoning.

That means people could get seriously ill with infections that common
antibiotic treatments might not knock down. Some of the bacteria were
resistant to drugs considered a last resort, including Cipro.

Most people can avoid trouble by properly handling and cooking their food,
health officials said. People with weakened immune systems, the very young
and the elderly are in greater danger of getting sick from the bacteria.

"All it takes is cutting a chicken on a cutting board, then using the same
knife to cut the vegetables," said Dubuque pediatrician Charles Winterwood,
chairman of the Iowa Sierra Club.

The Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club teamed with the Minneapolis-based
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to test 200 packages of ground
turkey and 200 whole chickens taken from grocery shelves in September-half
from each city.

Their message: Consumers may want to buy meat billed as organic - from
animals that weren't fed antibiotics as growth stimulants. Otherwise, they
face a small but serious risk of a hard-to-treat, potentially fatal
infection. The groups note that even so-called organic meat could be
contaminated in processing.

A certified laboratory in Florida, ABC Research Corp. of Gainsville, Fla.,
did the tests, which looked at Camplylobacter, salmonella and enterococci.

The meat came from Hy-Vee and Dahl's stores and included Honeysuckle White
ground turkey and Country Pride whole chickens. Representatives of Hy-Vee
and Dahl's declined comment because they hadn't seen the study.

Consumers interviewed were not shaken by the findings.

"I cook my food well done, so I don't think it makes a difference," said
Mary Burton, 43, of Des Moines, who was shopping at the Harding Hills
Hy-Vee, a store included in the study. "If it is on sale, I will get it."

Emma Edgington, 54, of Des Moines shopped Monday at one of the stores
tested, the Dahl's at 4343 Merle Hay Road. She said she might buy organic,
but was worried more about price than health threats.

"It just depends; the price of organic is a little high," said Edgington, a
professional caterer. She bought an "all-natural" Smart Chicken on Monday.

The nonprofit groups that did the study have pushed for poultry raisers to
cut the use of antibiotics, which also are routinely fed to hogs. They said
they didn't check pork because the testing is expensive. A representative
of the institute couldn't say what the study cost.

Major poultry companies, including Country Pride, have recently announced
that they are reducing the animal use of some antibiotics critical to human

The nonprofit groups billed the study as the first of its kind that named
the brands and the stores involved.

Ron Phillips of the Animal Health Institute, representing the
pharmaceutical industry, said the risk of foodborne illnesses that are
resistant to antibiotics is dropping as farmers use antibiotics more

"Veterinarians and producers are getting smarter every day on the use of
antibiotics," Phillips said. "The extremely small risk that antibiotic
resistance would be passed from animals to humans is getting even smaller."

Most patients with bacterial food poisoning don't need to be treated with
antibiotics, said the institute's David Wallinga, a doctor.

"But for those whose infections spread beyond the intestine, antibiotic
treatment can be life-saving," he said.



of 95 percent of chickens were contaminated, of which 62 percent were
resistant to antibiotics. Campylobacter

is the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the nation.

SALMONELLA: A common cause of food poisoning, it was found in 45 percent of
the turkey samples and 18 percent of the chickens tested. Nearly 6 percent
of the salmonella in chickens and 62 percent in turkeys were resistant to
antibiotics. Nearly a third of the salmonella in turkeys resisted at least
four antibiotics.


every chicken and ground turkey sample carried enterococci bacteria
resistant to at least one antibiotic; some were resistant to multiple

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