Chickens and bladder infections – two things you’d never expect to make headlines together – have captured attention this week after new findings were released showing a link between superbugs in chicken and urinary tract infections (UTIs) in humans that are increasingly tough to treat.
The common trait? A strain of antibiotic-resistant E. coli that researchers found in both human patients and the chicken we buy in supermarkets.
“The E. coli that is circulating at the same time, and in the same area — from food animal sources, retail meat, and the E. coli that’s causing women’s infections — is very closely related genetically,” said Amee Manges, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal who has been researching resistant UTIs for a decade. ”And the E. coli that you recover from poultry meat tends to have the highest levels of resistance. Of all retail meats, it’s the most problematic that way.”
About 80% of the antibiotics in the US are currently given to farm animals. The drugs help prevent disease in crowded and often unsanitary conditions, and also make the animals grow more quickly. This constant dosing allows bacteria to develop resistance to the antibiotics, and creates ‘superbugs’ that can be passed along to humans when we handle raw meat or eat it undercooked.
Our Meat Without Drugs campaign launched last month points to the overuse of antibiotics in livestock – and the superbugs we’re exposed to because of it – as reason to reform this practice in the meat industry.
As the interface between consumers and meat producers, supermarkets have the power to demand their suppliers stop using antibiotics in livestock. With increasing evidence of superbugs in meat impacting human health, grocery retailers must make sure consumers are buying safe products that won’t have long-term health implications.
We’re starting with Trader Joe’s, asking the company to take a step forward in the name of public health and only sell meat raised without antibiotics. If you haven’t already joined us, take a minute to sign the petition here.
Someday your bladder just might thank you.