Poultry is a major source of Campylobacter, which can cause foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in humans. Additionally, poultry-associated Campylobacter can develop resistance to important antimicrobials, which increases the risk to public health. While broiler chickens have been the focus of many studies, the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter on layer farms has not received equal attention. However, the growing popularity of cage-free and organic layer farming necessitates a closer assessment of (1) the impact of these farming practices on the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter and (2) layers as a potential source for the transmission of these pathogens.
Here, we showed that the prevalence of Campylobacter on organic and conventional layer farms was statistically similar (p > 0.05). However, the average number of Campylobacter jejuni-positive organically grown hens was lower (p < 0.05) in comparison to conventionally grown hens. Campylobacter isolated from both production systems carried antimicrobial resistance genes. The tet(O) and cmeB were the most frequently detected genes, while the occurrence of aph-3-1 and blaOXA-61 was significantly lower (p < 0.05). Farming practices appeared to have an effect on the antimicrobial resistance phenotype, because the isolates from organically grown hens on two farms (OF-2 and OF-3) exhibited significantly lower resistance (p < 0.05) to ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, and tylosin. However, on one of the sampled organic farms (OF-1), a relatively high number of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter were isolated.
We conclude that organic farming can potentially impact the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter. Nevertheless, this impact should be regularly monitored to avoid potential relapses.
Antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter in organically and conventionally raised layer chickens
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. September 2016, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/fpd.2016.2161.
Kassem Issmat I., Kehinde Olugbenga, Kumar Anand, and Rajashekara Gireesh
There are any number of agricultural production systems out there, each with their own way of making a buck and each with a certain level of hucksterism involved. I focus on whether the system and the end product are microbiologically safe. The best producers use techniques – regardless of political ideology – that fit best in their production system in their geographic location.
A new study in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease compared bacterial contamination rates and antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from 50 grass-fed and 50 conventionally produced beef products. The researchers from Purdue University and China concluded there was no safety advantage for either group.
The abstract is below:
Contamination rates and antimicrobial resistance in bacteria isolated from “grass-fed” labeled beef products
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease
Jiayi Zhang, Samantha K. Wall, Li Xu, Paul D. Ebner
Grass-fed and organic beef products make up a growing share of the beef market in the United States. While processing, animal handling, and farm management play large roles in determining the safety of final beef products, grass-fed beef products are often marketed as safer alternatives to grain-finished beef products based on the potential effects of all-forage diets on host microbiota. We conducted a series of experiments examining bacterial contamination rates in 50 beef products labeled as “grass-fed” versus 50 conventionally raised retail beef products. Coliform concentrations did not differ between conventional and grass-fed beef (conventional: 2.6 log10 CFU/mL rinsate; grass-fed: 2.7 log10 CFU/mL rinsate). The percentages of Escherichia coli positive samples did not differ between the two groups (44% vs. 44%). Enterococcus spp. were frequently isolated from both grass-fed beef products (44%) and conventional beef products (62%; p=0.07). No Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 isolates were recovered from any of the meat samples. Enterococcus spp. isolates from conventional beef were more frequently resistant to daptomycin and linezolid (p<0.05). Resistance to some antimicrobials (e.g., chloramphenicol, erythromycin, flavomycin, penicillin, and tetracyline) was high in Enterococcus spp. isolated from both conventional and grass-fed beef. There were no differences in the percentages of antimicrobial resistant E. coli isolates between the two groups. Taken together, these data indicate that there are no clear food safety advantages to grass-fed beef products over conventional beef products.