ESBL found in nearly half of Danish chicken meat

By Carmen Paun, in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

ESBL found in nearly half of Danish chicken meat

Related tags Chicken meat Poultry

Almost half of chicken meat in Denmark in 2011 contained extended spectrum beta lactamase (ESBL) – an enzyme promoting resistance to antibiotics used to treat severe infections in humans – according to a new study from the Danish Integrated Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring and Research Programme (DANMAP).

Its 2011 report, which accounts every year for the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in animals, food and humans, revealed that 44% of the samples from broiler meat produced in Denmark in 2011 and 48% of the broiler meat imported in the same year, contained ESBL.

E.coli, salmonella and klebsiella are all known as ESBL-producing bacteria.

These results show a dramatic increase compared to 2010, when only 8.6% of Danish chicken meat contained ESBL. Scientists at the Danish National Food Institute, who conducted the study, believe this is due to the bacteria being passed on from parent animals imported into Denmark.

“We find it important to stop the use of these critically important antimicrobial agents – cephalosporins – in broiler production, especially for breeding animals, as they spread the resistance to their offspring,”​ Yvonne Agersø, senior researcher at the National Food Institute, and one of the authors of DANMAP 2011, told GlobalMeatNews.

The figure for imported chicken meat has dropped slightly from 50% in 2010 to 48% last year and, according to Agersø, chicken meat is imported into Denmark mostly from other European Union countries. However, scientists believe that more studies need to be carried out to determine the proportion of human infections with ESBL derived from animals.

“We know there is a risk for the consumer, as E.coli causes, for example, urinary tract infections and can also cause more severe infections, but we are not able to quantify the risk of getting an infection with ESBL E.coli coming from chicken,”​ said Agersø.

The consumption of cephalosporins antibiotics is thought to be the main reason for the development of ESBL resistance. A voluntary ban, introduced in 2010 by the Danish government on the use of broad-spectrum cephalosporins for pigs, has seen the occurrence of ESBL in pork meat drop to 3.6%.

In Denmark, chicken meat is the third most-consumed meat type after pork and beef.

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