Resistant bacteria on raw chicken

Resistant bacteria can be transmitted to humans from food and animals. Where is the risk greatest and how can consumers be motivated to reduce this risk? A research project conducted as part of NFP 72 “Antimicrobial resistance” provides answers to these questions.

“Intervention to reduce the risk of multiple antimicrobial resistance transmission pathways” is the rather cumbersome title of a three-year research project led by the School of Applied Psychology (FHNW University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland in cooperation with SAFOSO AG). The research focused on how consumers can be made more aware of the need for safe handling of animals and foods and how they can be motivated to change their behaviour.

Where do the risks of transmission lie?
The work is based on a risk map compiled from expert assessments. The risk map shows the transmission routes for resistant bacteria in the Swiss food chain and via contact with pets and farm animals. According to this risk map, the highest contamination with resistant bacteria is found in raw chicken. Since a great deal of chicken is prepared in Swiss kitchens, it is possible that resistant bacteria are transmitted in this way. In addition, many households keep pets, which we humans are frequently in close contact with. Transmission of resistant bacteria is thus highly probable via this route too.  

Figure: Risk map of the transmission paths for resistant bacteria in the Swiss food chain through contact with animal products, as well as with domestic and farm animals. The number and size of the bubbles show the number of people at risk per year and the transmission path (Figure from SAFOSO AG).

Changing people’s behaviour
The results of the risk map made it clear that, if the transmission of resistant bacteria is to be reduced, measures need to focus on the preparation of raw chicken and the handling of pets. The intervention studies showed that consumers can be prompted to change their habits through conscious motivation and planning, thus strengthening the preventive measures for safe handling of foods and pets. Explanatory videos and goal setting proved to be effective.

Handling foods correctly
The FHNW researchers additionally recommend regular coverage in the media, or campaigns in the run-up to the barbecue season and in the winter, when fondue chinoise and raclette feature on the menu. These can lead to consumers changing their habits over time. The basic rules for handling food can also be incorporated into recipes, featured in cookery broadcasts and taught in cookery classes to a greater extent. Warning stickers on pre-packaged raw meat and fish can remind consumers that these foods are best prepared separately from other ingredients.

Dealing correctly with pets
Vets also play a key role in the correct handling of pets. They can point out that it is possible for resistant bacteria to be transmitted through excessively close contact between humans and pets. They should prescribe antibiotics sparingly and follow the appropriate treatment guidelines. In addition, a good standard of hygiene in the veterinary practice will prevent a pet from taking resistant bacteria home with it and transmitting these to its owners.
Vets and pet supply stores should also be informed about the risks of BARF food (biologically appropriate raw food). This consists essentially of raw meat, raw fish and fresh offal and/or bones. With this diet, there is a risk of the animal not receiving a balanced diet and of resistant bacteria being transmitted.

“Intervention to reduce the risk of multiple antimicrobial resistance transmission pathways” is a research project that forms part of National Research Project NFP 72 “Antimicrobial resistance”.

Last modification 14.11.2021

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