If you’ve ever driven across Kansas or ventured very far to the East of Oakland, Calif., you’ve seen those giant wind farms; acres and acres of huge wind turbines cranking out gigawatts of electricity when the wind blows. The hills near the Inland Empire and the flatlands of central Kansas rarely lack for a freshening breeze.
Dawn Undurraga Imagine the accumulated meadow muffins from all the cattle in Texas being tossed against those fan blades. Now you have some idea of the controversy created recently by the publication of Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets, a ‘scholarly’ treatise by the Environmental Working Group and partially funded by Applegate, a company that sells organic and antibiotic-free meat. It was based on data collected in 2011 by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), a joint program of the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It shows an increase in the amount of meat contaminated with antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter.
To accurately report the contents of the NARMS report, I contacted Richard Raymond, former Undersecretary for Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2005-2008) and a food safety and public health consultant. He supplied me with these facts:
- Ampicillin resistance in Salmonella is increasing
- Ciprofloxacin resistance is down from 29% to 18% since FDA banned its use in 2005
- Resistance to Vancomycin or Linezolid in enterococci was not found
- Nalidixic Acid (a Quinolone) resistance in E coli dropped from 10% to 1% in ground turkey
- Macrolide resistance in Campylobacter remained low at 4.3% for C coli and 0.5% for C jejuni
- No samples of E coli showed resistance to Ciprofloxacin
- Multi-drug resistance (MDR) increased in Salmonella while remaining very rare in Campylobacter
“Superbugs” caused eyebrows to pop at the Food and Drug Administration’s Washington office. Alarm bells sounded at every FDA office across the land. FDA officials, often accused of watching Alaskan glaciers thunder by as they hem and haw over every little word in the shortest press release, responded immediately.
The FDA could find almost nothing in Superbugs that was supported by anything they had published. The gentle wording they chose said something like EWG had ‘over simplified’ a 2011 report.