COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND. About 1.4 million cases of salmonella food poisoning occur each year in the United States. Most cases resolve on their own within five to seven days, but between 3 to 10 per cent require treatment with antibiotics. Researchers at the University of Maryland have concluded that most of the cases are caused by salmonella contamination of meat. They analyzed 200 samples of ground meat (chicken, beef, turkey and pork) and found that 20 per cent of them contained salmonella bacteria. Of even greater concern was the finding that 84 per cent of the isolated salmonella strains were resistant to at least one antibiotic while 53 per cent were resistant to at least three antibiotics. The development of antibiotic- resistant strains is of serious concern as it makes it a lot more difficult to treat an infection in both humans and animals. The researchers believe that the growth of resistant salmonella strains is due to the vast overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry. It is estimated that over 26 million lbs. (11.2 million kgs.) of antibiotics are given to animals every year. Only 10 per cent of this amount is for treatment of infections. The remaining 90 per cent is for promotion of growth. In contrast, it is estimated that only three million lbs. of antibiotics are given to humans every year. Dr. Sherwood Gorbach of Tufts University recommends that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals be banned and the use of fluoroquinolones and third- generation cephalosporins be reserved for humans.
White, David G., et al. The isolation of antibiotic-resistant salmonella from retail ground meats. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 345, October 18, 2001, pp. 1147-54
Gorbach, Sherwood L. Antimicrobial use in animal feed – time to stop. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 345, October 18, 2001, pp. 1202-03 (editorial)