Superbug found in 62 percent of chicken in Hong Kong
Sixty-two percent of samples of chicken sold in Hong Kong contained bacteria resistant to antibiotics, including 96 percent of all local chicken samples, the city’s consumer rights watchdog said on Thursday.
The Consumer Council urged the government to review current legislation on the use of antibiotics in food animals.
The revelation came in its monthly report on the quality of various products sold in the city.
The council tested 100 chicken models from last December to May this year and found that 62 of those contained ESBL-producing bacteria. ESBL is a kind of enzyme that makes inactive many antibiotics commonly used to treat infectious diseases with bacterial origin.
The superbug was found in all six samples of daily slaughtered fresh chicken, followed by 92 percent of live chicken freshly slaughtered on site and 70 percent of chilled chicken. Some 30 percent of frozen chicken was found to contain the bacteria, the report said.
The bacteria were found in 96 percent of local chicken samples and 79 percent of chicken from the Chinese mainland, according to the report.
The difference may be attributed to storing temperatures, said Michael Hui King-man, chairman of the Consumer Council’s Publicity and Community Relations Committee. Frozen models, which are placed in a temperature close to or below freezing point, may account for the lower proliferation or slow growth of the bacteria, Hui said.
Only 11 percent of the chickens shipped from Australia and 15 percent of those from North America were found to contain the bacteria. Hui said that may be attributable to the strict regulation of antibiotics use in those regions.
Meanwhile, six out of 16 chicken samples labeled “organic” were found to contain the bacteria.
Hui said consumers should be aware that “organic” certification does not necessarily guarantee the quality of the product.
The chairman cautioned that long-term consumption of chicken containing the bacteria may cause food poisoning. The bacteria carriers have a higher risk of having urinary tract infection. Among them, prostatitis patients may get infected when having surgery of rectum piercing, Hui said.
Thus Hui advised consumers to cook chicken thoroughly, as the antimicrobial-resistant bacteria can be killed at high temperatures. He urged members of the public to change the eating habit of having chicken cooked “just right” to maintain the tender texture.
His view was supported by the city’s top microbiologist Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong’s Carol Yu Center for Infection. He said high-temperature boiling can effectively kill the bacteria. Freezing can slow down the proliferation or growth of the bacteria, Ho added.