People advocating for the reduction or even elimination of antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production are likely to intensify their push after learning of two recent Salmonella outbreaks.

While all of the poultry industry is, at the least, practicing judicious use of antibiotics as fears continue of a potential link between antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use in animals raised for food production. And the number of chickens and turkeys in the United States that are being raised with no antibiotics ever (NAE) seems to be growing.

But that might not be good enough for those people who instantly, and often without any verifiable information, believe that there should be no antibiotics in agriculture.

Raw chicken cases

Just last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 92 people in 29 states have become ill due to an outbreak of Salmonella Infantis that has been linked to raw chicken products, although no one company was identified in the outbreak.

CDC also pointed out that according to the testing conducted CDC, which is investigating the outbreak, the strain of Salmonella Infantis isolated from ill people shows to be resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Whether antibiotic use in the livestock and poultry industry would have actually played a part in the presence of that strain of Salmonella would be difficult to prove, but the finger, in a roundabout way, has already been pointed.

Beef case

Roughly two weeks before the Salmonella cases connected to raw poultry products was announced, nearly 7 million pounds of beef from JBS was recalled due to a connection to a group of Salmonella infections that affected 57 people from 16.

The recall notice, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), did not say anything about a link to antibiotics, but a blog has been circulated by Lena Brook on the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) website, that states the strain of Salmonella present in this outbreak, Salmonella Newport has in the past proven to be resistant to antibiotics.

What message will be received?

People will definitely view the CDC as an authoritative source, and we can assume that many will view NRDC as knowledgeable on the topic.

But people, for the most part, still trust farmers to do what is right for their animals. And so many of them believe that judicious antibiotic use is what’s right. The drum has been beaten many times before, but those that use antibiotics to assure their animals’ health need to educate those uninformed of the topic. These recent Salmonella cases might just be the catalyst to engage in such a dialogue.