Chicken lovers beware: Breeders in India use antibiotics to make birds fatter

If you love chicken, especially bits that are juicier and meatier, you could be in a lot of trouble. According to a report from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML), chicken breeders in India are relying on antibiotics to add some extra fat to the bird and while this may make for a tasty dish, it could affect bacterial resistance in humans. View full study here.

The report says that out of 70 samples of chicken from the Delhi-NCR region around 40 percent tested positive for six commonly used antibiotics. There were residues of more than one antibiotic in 17 percent of the samples, adds the study. PML tested three tissues — muscle, liver and kidney — for the presence of six antibiotics widely used in poultry.

The study notes,

"Thirty six chicken samples were from Delhi, 12 from Noida, 8 from Gurgaon and 7 each from Ghaziabad and Faridabad. In the phase-I, a total of 50 samples of chicken were tested during September-October 2013. In 4 samples, muscles, kidney and liver were tested separately; for the remaining 46 only muscles were tested. In phase-II, 20 samples of chicken were tested during May-June 2014. In 10 samples, muscles and liver were tested; for the remaining 10 only muscles were tested."

It goes on to say that, "About 23 percent (16/70) chickens had residue of one antibiotic while about 17 percent (12/70) had residues of more than one antibiotic. Two of the seventy chickens tested had antibiotics from two groups (Tetracyclines and Fluoroquinolones)."

 Chicken lovers beware: Breeders in India use antibiotics to make birds fatter

You might want to give tandoori chicken a miss. Reuters

Antibiotics are used in the chicken industry to help the birds gain weight and grow faster. And poultry is one of the fastest growing industries in India. The report points out that the Indian poultry sector has been growing at around "8-10 percent annually over the last decade." In 2013, the total poultry market size was estimated at Rs 58,000 crore.

So yes with consumption growing, it seems breeders have resorted to antibiotics to ensure steady supply.

So what happens when too many antibiotics are used in a chicken? For starters, it could lead to the emergence of resistant bacteria in the animal which could later transmit to "humans through food, environment and direct contact with the affected meat," notes the study. It also goes on to say that the residues of these "antimicrobial compounds" are also found in foods of animal origin and that "these residues are also known to transfer to humans through food and environment."

The CSE lab study adds that it not the size of consumption that matters when it comes to chicken and even small bites could make people resistant to antibiotics.

The report also points out to study in India done across hospitals which showed that when it comes to antibiotic resistance, the country is already facing a crisis of sorts. Several bacteria strains are resistant to drugs like Ciprofloxacin, Doxycycline and Tetracycline antibiotics, according to the study.

So are there no regulations for use of antibiotics in chicken? It would appear no, adds the study, though ironically this same industry is following regulations and standards set by the European Union when it comes to chicken that is sent out for export.

With no regulation and a high combination of antibiotics in chicken, it would be best perhaps if chicken lovers gave that 'tangadi kebab' a miss.

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Updated Date: Jul 31, 2014 13:48:33 IST