It was brought to my attention today that the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) released its 2007 Executive Report (pdf).  The report summarizes data collected on non-typhoidal Salmonella and Campylobacter isolates recovered in 2007 from food animals at federally inspected plants, retail meats, and humans, as well as susceptibility data on Escherichia coli isolates recovered from retail meats and chickens in 2007.

Browsing through the report, it was the data on E. coli positive samples of retail meat that caught my eye.  Of the samples of ground turkey collected, a whopping 93.2% cultured positive for E. coli.  Of the other types of retail meat sampled, 87.4% of chicken breasts, 74.6% of ground beef, and 42.7% of pork chops cultured positive for E. coli

The report unfortunately does not specify the type(s) of E. coli these numbers include.  For example, is it generic E. coli, or do the numbers include Shiga toxin-producing E. coli?  If so, what percentage of the positive cultures include Shiga-toxin producing E. coli?  This is important, of course, because Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, like the infamous O157 strain as well as many others, are the type that can cause severe illness and death in humans.

For those unfamiliar with NARMS, it is a collaborative effort between the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA CVM), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The NARMS program monitors changes in antimicrobial drug susceptibilities of selected enteric bacterial organisms in humans, animals, and retail meats to a panel of antimicrobial drugs important in human and animal medicine. Bacterial isolates are collected from human and animal clinical specimens, from healthy farm animals, and raw product from food animals. Retail meats collected from grocery stores were recently added to NARMS sampling. The primary objectives of NARMS include:

  • To provide descriptive data on the extent and temporal trends of antimicrobial drug susceptibility in Salmonella and other enteric bacterial organisms from human and animal populations, as well as retail meats.
  • To facilitate the identification of antimicrobial drug resistance in humans, animals, and retail meats as it arises;
  • To provide timely information to veterinarians and physicians on antimicrobial drug resistance patterns.