Chicken Industry

Antibiotics in poultry pose health risk

Due to the lack of labelling and traceability regulations for imported poultry, FairPlay is highlighting the following article. Courtesy of the Cape Times. By Lyse Comin.

Consumers have the right to know whether food may contain antibiotics, and producers should be required to inform them on the packaging.

This concern was raised by an international health expert who was speaking on the sidelines of the Conference on Antibiotic Stewardship and Conservation in Africa at the University of KwaZulu- Natal in Durban this week.

Professor of clinical microbiology at the University of the Arctic in Norway, Arnfinn Sundsfjord, raised the concern following the presentation of local research that showed the presence of antibiotic- resistant bacteria in chicken sold on supermarkets.

Stephanie Pillay’s research, which was conducted in affiliation with the Antimicrobial Research Unit in the College of Health Sciences at UKZN, involved the collection of faeces, litter, abattoir, water and retail meat product samples from a poultry farm.

The Campylobactersppbacteria, which causesfood poisoning with symptoms suchasfever, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, if consumed in undercooked chicken, was detected in the samples and tested for resistance to antibiotics. The research found that the largest number of virulence genes of the bacteria were present in retail meat products, which when tested showed mutations/resistance genes to a number of antibiotics.

“The increased resistanceof bacteria to antibiotics has been associated with the continuous use of antibiotics to maintain animal welfare,” she said. Pillay said the practice created a potential risk to human health care. However, she said consumers should not be discouraged from consuming chicken products, but rather educated on how to cook chicken properly because only raw and undercooked meat posed a risk.

A separate farm-to-fork study presented by Daniel Amoaka, also in affiliation with the Antimicrobial Research Unit at UKZN, tested chicks from the day of purchase to slaughter and found the presence of a multi-drug-resistant MRSA bacteria clone circulating between humans and animals.

The study found that the results required “the establishment of appropriate control measures in order to curb their further spread in the South African food chain”.

Sundsfjord saidpoultry producers should be required to label their products ashaving been raisedwith antibiotics. Lenore Manderson, professor of public health and medical anthropology in the school of public health at the University of the Witwatersrand, said businesses were already aware of the demand by consumers for information regarding antibiotics.

She said it was evident in how some firms saw it as important and were labelling relevant products as being “antibiotic-free”