Meat Institute Survey Finds Confusion Among Consumers Regarding Antibiotics

Consumers largely misunderstand leading contributor to human antibiotic resistance, survey shows

Published on: May 14, 2014

Consumers are confused about the causes of antibiotic resistance, a new poll conducted by Nielsen/The Harris Poll for the American Meat Institute and released this week has found.

In the survey, conducted online in March 2014 among 2,100 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, participants were asked, "According to the CDC, which of the following is the greatest contributing factor to human antibiotic resistance?"

Only four in ten Americans – 41% -- correctly answered "health professionals over-prescribing to people." Eighteen percent thought use of antibiotics in livestock production was the number one contributing factor according to the CDC.  Seven percent thought the CDC found antimicrobial hand sanitizers to be the biggest factor; 5% thought the answer was drinking water and 28% said they were unsure.

Consumers largely misunderstand leading contributor to human antibiotic resistance, survey shows
Consumers largely misunderstand leading contributor to human antibiotic resistance, survey shows

During a September 2013 press conference to release a report on antibiotics, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, said, "Right now, the most acute problem is in hospitals. And the most resistant organisms in hospitals are emerging in those settings because of poor antimicrobial stewardship among humans."

Related: Animal Pharmaceutical Companies Commit To FDA's Antibiotic Guidance

CDC also said that it is important to use good stewardship in administering antibiotics during livestock and poultry production and that antibiotic use for animal growth promotion should be phased out, an effort that is already under way at the request of the Food and Drug Administration.

Survey data also reflect confusion around the issue of antibiotic residues. Four in ten consumers (39%) think that unsafe levels of antibiotics are commonly present in the meat and poultry products found at the grocery store, though AMI says government data show that violative antibiotic residues in meat and poultry are virtually non-existent.

In 2011, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service screened meat and poultry for 128 chemicals, and 99% of the tested carcasses were free of all of them, AMI said.

The poll information is released alongside a new brochure regarding antibiotic use, called Antibiotics in Livestock & Poultry Production: Sort Fact From Fiction.