She was commenting on figures from the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira, or Elintarviketurvallisuusvirasto Evira), which found in tests for 2016 that out of 309 samples, 53 contained E.coli bacteria, which produce AmpC beta-lactamases enzymes, while 15 contained extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL) -producing bacteria, which are resistant to drugs. This meant 22% of samples contained the bacteria – although health risks are low with proper cooking and hand-washing.
“Evira never said [these cases] were increasing,” said Rantala-Sarjeant, who is also a farmer. “They have been 18% in 2012, 5% less a year later and were 22% in 2016, so I would say the figures are fluctuating.”
She stressed that particularly risky ESBL was only found in 5% of the 309 fresh meat packages tested and the rest (17%) were AmpC enzymes, and added: “The situation in Finland is actually excellent compared to most countries.”
To keep super-bacteria levels low, Finnish chicken farmers practice only ‘all in-all out’ production, where all waste is controlled, maintaining high hygiene and ensuring low stress levels for birds. “Good management and excellent feed are also key factors. We do not use antibiotics, except when needed and always prescribed by a vet,” she said.
Finnish slaughterhouses, also closely monitor all imported breeding chickens, notably Ross Cobb breeds, and give feedback to supplier companies. The Suomen Broileryhdistys also meets with colleagues from Scandinavian associations and breeding sources to discuss food and livestock safety issues.
“We will keep working to keep ESBL/AmpC levels low and remain an antibiotic- and salmonella-free country. And we must be doing it right as the figures prove,” argued Rantala-Serjeant.
Anna-Liisa Myllyniemi, head of microbiology research unit (research and laboratory services department) at Evira noted under Finnish law, infections caused by enzyme-producing bacteria are notifiable. Also, the government has established a special monitoring programme on antibiotic resistance since 2002 – FINRES-Vet, the Finnish Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring and Consumption of Antimicrobial Agents. Resulting data is released on antibiotic susceptibility including on ESBL/AmpC-producing E.coli in livestock. “In Finland, this includes ESBL/AmpC E.coli from poultry and pigs, fresh broiler, pig and cattle meat. In 2013, this was expanded to screen imported poultry flocks. ESBL/AmpC (mostly the latter), are found in the broiler production chain, but rarely in pigs or bovines or their meat here,” Myllyniemi explained.