Study Finds Superbugs on Organic and 'No Antibiotic' Chickens Too

Consumer Reports study finds that organic and "no antibiotics" chickens tend to carry nearly as many resistant strains as conventional.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration's recent steps to rein in the practice of using daily antibiotic doses for poultry, a recent Consumer Reports study found that nearly half of all chicken samples it plucked from supermarket shelves nationwide carried "at least one bacterium that was resistant to three or more commonly prescribed antibiotics." 

"We found slightly fewer multidrug-resistant bacteria in the no antibiotics/organic pool compared to conventional," Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability for Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, told Mother Jones. "The issue is that we really didn't see the bigger difference we expected." 

Possible factors include cross-contamination at the slaughterhouse, or the one antibiotic loophole in organic poultry production: To get the USDA label, chickens need to be raised under organic rules only from the "second day of life," meaning that they can and commonly do receive antibiotics while at the hatchery. 

But that, of course, doesn't explain why chicken labeled "no antibiotics," which doesn't enjoy the same hatchery loophole since the USDA requires that it comes from birds never exposed to antibiotics, even in the egg. Yet in the Consumer Reports study, "no antibiotics" chicken (like organic)  tended to carry nearly as many resistant strains as organic and conventional.*

Rangan told Mother Jones that her organization plans to drill down and look at more stages of the production process to figure out why antibiotic-resistant strains are appearing at higher-than-expected rates on chicken raised without antibiotics. To read more, click HERE.