Antibiotic resistance in bacteria isolated from vegetables with regards to the marketing stage (farm vs. supermarket).

Research paper by Karin K Schwaiger, Katharina K Helmke, Christina Susanne CS Hölzel, Johann J Bauer

Indexed on: 28 Jun '11Published on: 28 Jun '11Published in: International Journal of Food Microbiology


The aim of this study was to elucidate whether and to what extent fresh produce from Germany plays a role as a carrier and reservoir of antibiotic resistant bacteria. For this purpose, 1001 vegetables (fruit, root, bulbous vegetables, salads and cereals) were collected from 13 farms and 11 supermarkets in Germany and examined bacteriologically. Phenotypic resistance of Enterobacter cloacae (n=172); Enterobacter gergoviae (n=92); Pantoea agglomerans (n=96); Pseudomonas aeruginosa (n=295); Pseudomonas putida (n=106) and Enterococcus faecalis (n=100) against up to 30 antibiotics was determined by using the microdilution method. Resistance to ß-lactams was most frequently expressed by P. agglomerans and E. gergoviae against cefaclor (41% and 29%). Relatively high resistance rates were also observed for doxycycline (23%), erythromycin (21%) and rifampicin (65%) in E. faecalis, for spectinomycin (28%) and mezlocillin (12%) in E. cloacae, as well as for streptomycin (19%) in P. putida. In P. aeruginosa, relatively low resistance rates were observed for the aminoglycosides amikacin, apramicin, gentamicin, neomycin, netilmicin and tobramycin (<4%); 11% was resistant to streptomycin. No glycopeptide-resistant enterococci were observed. Resistance rates of bacteria isolated from farm samples were higher than those of the retail markets whenever significant differences were observed. This suggests that expressing resistance is at the expense of bacterial viability, since vegetables purchased directly at the farm are probably fresher than at the supermarket, and they have not been exposed to stress factors. However, this should not keep the customer from buying directly at the farm, since the overall resistance rates were not higher than observed in bacteria from human or animal origin. Instead, peeling or washing vegetables before eating them raw is highly recommended, since it reduces not only the risk of contact with pathogens, but also that of ingesting and spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria.