FSA reports low levels of antimicrobial resistant E. coli in UK’s retail meat

Levels of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) E. coli in raw UK retail pork and beef remain low, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Findings come from a survey on behalf of the European Commission to assess the frequency of certain types of AMR E. coli in raw UK meat.

One beef sample was contaminated with an E. coli containing the mcr-1 gene which can make bacteria resistant to colistin, which remains one of the antibiotics of last resort for people with multi-resistant infections caused by certain species of bacteria.

Paul Cook, FSA’s head of microbiological risk assessment, said it was thought to be the first discovery of a mcr-1 positive E. coli from retail beef in the UK.

“Although the meat came from outside the UK, further testing indicated no contamination with this E. coli on other samples and at this stage we have not been able to pinpoint the source of the contamination. However, a risk assessment has been carried out and we want to make it clear that the risk to public health is very low,” he said.

The survey between January and December 2017 saw 314 beef and 310 pork samples purchased from retail in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Analysis requires initial isolation and enrichment of E. coli from all meat samples, prior to testing for AMR E. coli such as Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamases (ESBLs), AmpC and Carbapenemase-producing.

Results showed less than 1 percent of retail beef and pork samples were positive for AmpC or ESBL-producing E. coli. Only three of the 624 samples tested yielded E. coli colonies on MacConkey agar + 1mg/L cefotaxime (MCA-CTX) – two beef and one pork. None of them were positive on carbapenem agar.

Two of the isolates from MCA-CTX, one beef and one pork, had an AmpC phenotype, whilst another beef isolate had an ESBL phenotype.

No samples gave rise to viable counts of E. coli above the detection limit of 40 bacteria per gram of meat on the two selective agars used indicating numbers of resistant bacteria in the samples were low.

Data is submitted annually to the European Commission and reported in the EU Summary Report on Antimicrobial Resistance but the retailers and product brands are not identified. The findings have been collected as part of an EU-wide seven-year surveillance study. Pork and beef were last tested in 2015 while poultry was examined in 2016.

None of the isolates were resistant to the last resort carbapenem antibiotics imipenem, ertapenem and meropenem. All isolates were resistant to the beta-lactam antibiotic ampicillin and the ESBL isolate was resistant to the cephalosporin antibiotics cefotaxime and ceftazidime but sensitive to cefoxitin. However, the two AmpC isolates were resistant to cefoxitin.

Cook said tackling AMR is a priority for the FSA and UK Government.

Source: Foodyblog

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