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Distance and destination of retail meat alter multidrug resistant contamination in the United States food system

November 29, 2023
Scientific Reports

Gabriel K. Innes, Andrew N. Patton, Keeve E. Nachman, Joan A. Casey, G. Sean Stapleton, Alison G. Abraham, Lance B. Price, Sara Y. Tartof & Meghan F. Davis


Antibiotic-resistant infections are a global concern, especially those caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria, defined as those resistant to more than three drug classes. The animal agriculture industry contributes to the antimicrobial resistant foodborne illness burden via contaminated retail meat. In the United States, retail meat is shipped across the country. Therefore, understanding geospatial factors that influence MDR bacterial contamination is vital to protect consumers and inform interventions. Using data available from the United States Food and Drug Administration’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), we describe retail meat shipping distances using processor and retailer locations and investigated this distance as a risk factor for MDR bacteria meat contamination using log-binomial regression. Meat samples collected during 2012–2014 totaled 11,243, of which 4791 (42.61%) were contaminated with bacteria and 835 (17.43%) of those bacteria were MDR. All examined geospatial factors were associated with MDR bacteria meat contamination. After adjustment for year and meat type, we found higher prevalence of MDR contamination among meat processed in the south (relative adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR] 1.35; 95% CI 1.06–1.73 when compared to the next-highest region), sold in Maryland (aPR 1.12; 95% CI 0.95–1.32 when compared to the next-highest state), and shipped from 194 to 469 miles (aPR 1.59; 95% CI 1.31–1.94 when compared to meats that traveled < 194 miles). However, sensitivity analyses revealed that New York sold the meat with the highest prevalence of MDR Salmonella contamination (4.84%). In this secondary analysis of NARMS data, both geographic location where products were sold and the shipping distance were associated with microbial contamination on retail meat.