Su­per­bug found in 62 per­cent of chicken in Hong Kong

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By DARA WANG in Hong Kong dara@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

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