Assessing the difference in contamination of retail meat with multidrug-resistant bacteria using for-consumer package label claims that indicate on-farm antibiotic use practices- United States, 2016-2019

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology




Antimicrobial resistance; Foodborne bacteria; Label claims; Retail meat


BACKGROUND: Antibiotic use in food-producing animals can select for antibiotic resistance in bacteria that can be transmitted to people through contamination of food products during meat processing. Contamination resulting in foodborne illness contributes to adverse health outcomes. Some livestock producers have implemented antibiotic use reduction strategies marketed to consumers on regulated retail meat packaging labels ("label claims"). OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether retail meat label claims were associated with isolation of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs, resistant to ≥3 classes of antibiotics) from U.S. meat samples. METHODS: We utilized retail meat data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) collected during 2016-2019 for bacterial contamination of chicken breast, ground turkey, ground beef, and pork chops. We used modified Poisson regression models to compare the prevalence of MDRO contamination among meat samples with any antibiotic restriction label claims versus those without such claims (i.e., conventionally produced). RESULTS: In NARMS, 62,338 meat samples were evaluated for bacterial growth from 2016-2019. Of these, 24,446 (39%) samples had label claims that indicated antibiotic use was restricted during animal production. MDROs were isolated from 2252 (4%) meat samples, of which 71% (n = 1591) were conventionally produced, and 29% (n = 661) had antibiotic restriction label claims. Compared with conventional samples, meat with antibiotic restriction label claims had a statistically lower prevalence of MDROs (adjusted prevalence ratio: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.73). This relationship was consistent for the outcome of any bacterial growth. IMPACT: This repeated cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative retail meat surveillance database in the United States supports that retail meats labeled with antibiotic restriction claims were less likely to be contaminated with MDROs compared with retail meat without such claims during 2016-2019. These findings indicate the potential for the public to become exposed to bacterial pathogens via retail meat and emphasizes a possibility that consumers could reduce their exposure to environmental reservoirs of foodborne pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics.


Environmental and Occupational Health