Record levels of superbugs resistant to some of the strongest antibiotics have been found in British supermarket chickens, according to new research from the Government.
The Food Standards Agency [FSA] tested a large sample of chicken – from a range of retailers – and found the proportion of campylobacter has significantly increased over the last 10 years.
Campylobacter is a pathogen – meaning it can cause disease and even death. It was found to be resistant to the antibiotics usually used to treat it.
According to the FSA: “This survey provides evidence that AMR [anti-microbial resistant] campylobacter are to be found on whole fresh chickens sold at retail in the UK.
“It is therefore important to handle chicken hygienically and cook thoroughly to reduce the risk to public health.”
Are we hurtling towards a post-antibiotic future?
The World Health Organization [WHO] has long been calling on farmers to stop using antibiotics on farm animals.
The misuse of these drugs in agriculture is causing huge risks to human health, and contributing to the rise of ‘superbugs’.
Antibiotics are routinely used in healthy animals for disease prevention, especially in intensive farming.
While it is forbidden to use the drugs for growth promotion in the EU, some fear it still happens. Additionally, it is commonplace in the US and Asia.
The rise of superbugs
The WHO claims that in some countries, up to 80 percent of antibiotics are used on farm animals.
This misuse is creating the biggest risk of resistance to even fairly minor illnesses in humans.
The issue is so serious, that according to Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, routine surgeries like hip replacements could become high risk because of infection risk in as little as 10 years.
She described this future as a ‘post-antibiotic apocalypse’.