USDA Must Act on Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria, Says CSPI

Statement of CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein


Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are invading the butcher case, and the federal government isn't doing enough to stop them.

A new Consumer Reports study shows that almost half of raw chicken tested carried bacteria that are resistant to three or more drugs called "critically or highly important" by the World Health Organization. And a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts uncovered critical weaknesses in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspection program that allow for widespread contamination. Both reports provide more evidence that consumers are at serious risk. Infections from these antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be harder to treat and can result in more serious consequences, including death.

More than two and a half years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned USDA to declare certain types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as adulterants in meat and poultry. That would prevent foods contaminated with those pathogens from entering commerce and would provide a real incentive for the food industry to stop the excessive use of antibiotics. USDA has the authority to take this step: the agency did it with pathogenic E. coli and could act in the same way to protect consumers from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Court cases limiting the agency’s authority don't restrict USDA when it comes to unnatural contaminants that are caused by man, like these antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

How many more people have to suffer hard-to-treat antibiotic-resistant infections before the USDA acts to get antibiotic-resistant bacteria out of food?

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]