Meat from conventionally raised poultry was twice as likely to contain multidrug-resistant Salmonella as poultry labeled antibiotic-free or organic, according to study presented at IDWeek 2019 earlier this month.

In the study, researchers reviewed data from chicken and turkey randomly purchased in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2017 and found 280 of the 2,733 (10.2%) samples of conventionally raised poultry were contaminated with non-typhoidal Salmonella compared to 40 of the 748 (5.3%) poultry samples labeled antibiotic-free. Further, they determined that 154 of 280 (55%) Salmonella cultures from conventionally raised poultry were resistant to three or more antibiotics compared to 11 of 40 (28%) Salmonella cultures from poultry raised without antibiotics. They also found 68 of 280 (24.3%) of the cultures from conventional poultry and three of 40 (7.5%) of the cultures from antibiotic-free poultry contained a gene that makes Salmonella difficult to treat with the only class of antibiotics recommended for use in children.

“Although contamination of retail poultry was found in both conventionally raised and antibiotic-free samples, our results show that Salmonella in poultry produced without antibiotics—based on packaging claims—were significantly less resistant to antibiotics compared with poultry raised using conventional methods,” said Xin Yin, MPH, lead author of the study and DrPH candidate at Penn State College of Medicine. “Consumers should read production labels and make informed choices based on the evidence about the risk of poultry contamination with drug-resistant Salmonella.”

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