Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2006
Publication Date: 12/1/2006
Citation: Mcgowan, L., Cray, P.J., Jackson, C.R., Barrett, J.B., Hiott, L.M. 2006. Prevalence and antimicrobial resistance of enterococci isolated from retail fruits, vegetables, and meats. Journal of Food Protection. 69(12):2976-2982.
Interpretive Summary: The use of antimicrobials in the food supply and the potential for transfer of antimicrobial resistant bacteria into the human population is cause for concern. From 2000-2001, vegetables, fruits, and meat were purchased from six grocery store chains in the North Georgia USA area and cultured for the presence of enterococci. Overall, 47% of the samples were positive for enterococci. Of the fruits and vegetables, enterococci were cultured most often from tomatoes and radishes, respectively. Among the meat items tested, enterococci were isolated from 95% of chicken and turkey, and 73% and 77% of beef and pork samples, respectively. High levels of antimicrobial resistance were found to lincomycin and bacitracin, but no isolates were resistant to linezolid or vancomycin. This research will be useful to policy makers and researchers who can use this information when studying the effects of antimicrobials on food and consumers for making informed decisions about food.
Technical Abstract: Although enterococci are considered opportunistic pathogens, they can be reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance. This is increasingly important considering foodborne illnesses from meat and rising infections from produce. From 2000-2001, food items (vegetables, fruits, and meats) were obtained from grocery store chains in the North Georgia USA area and cultured for the presence of enterococci. Of the samples, 47.7% (189/396) were positive for enterococci. Of the fruits and vegetables, enterococci were cultured most often from tomatoes (9/27, 33%) and radishes (10/11, 91%), respectively. Among the meat items tested, enterococci were isolated from 95% (21/22) chicken, 73% (16/22) beef, 95% (20/21) turkey, and 77% (17/22) pork samples. The predominant species identified was Enterococcus faecalis (n=80) from meat followed by Enterococcus casseliflavus (n=66) from fruits and vegetables. While high numbers of isolates were resistant to lincomycin (176/189; 93.1%) and bacitracin (150/189; 79.4%), very few isolates were resistant to salinomycin (n=2; 1.1%), penicillin (n=3; 1.6%), or nitrofurantoin (n=9; 4.8%). None of the isolates were resistant to linezolid or vancomycin. These data suggest that foods commonly purchased and consumed from grocery stores are a source of enterococci; however, overall resistance to antimicrobials is relatively low.