Antibiotic Resistance and Food Safety

Although most foodborne infections are mild and do not require treatment, antibiotics can be lifesaving in severe cases. Antibiotic resistance makes it harder to treat these infections and is a serious threat to the public’s health.

Salmonella and Campylobacter, two of the many bacteria transmitted commonly through food, cause an estimated 660,900 antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States each year.

Overview of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria (germs) are able to survive or grow despite the use of an antibiotic that was previously able to stop them.

Antibiotics are powerful tools for fighting illness and disease in people and animals. However, any time antibiotics are used they can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. For these reasons, it is important to only use antibiotics when necessary.

Cover of Report: Antibiotic Resistance Threats In The United States - 2019

Antibiotic Resistant Threats in the United States, 2019pdf icon [PDF, 22MB] provides an updated snapshot of the burden and threats posed by 18 antibiotic-resistant germs.

Efforts to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria among people include immunization, infection control, improved antibiotic use, and protecting the food supply. Learn more at the CDC’s Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance website.

Can I Get an Antibiotic-Resistant Infection?

A person at the grocery store examining a package of meat before putting it in their basket.

Anyone can become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the United States, at least 2.8 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics every year, and at least 35,000 people die as a direct result of these infections.

Some resistant infections can be difficult to treat and cause severe illness. People with these infections may:

  • Be more likely to be hospitalized and to have higher medical expenses.
  • Take longer to get well.
  • Die from the infection.

How Antibiotic Resistance Connects to Food Safety

Antibiotics are used to treat, prevent, and control infections in animals, including food animals. Animals, like people, carry bacteria in their intestines. When food animals are given antibiotics, resistant bacteria in their intestines can survive and grow.  These resistant bacteria in food animals can:

  • Contaminate meat and poultry and can make people sick.
  • Get into the environment through animal feces (poop) and spread to fruits and vegetables being grown nearby or into irrigation water used on fruits and vegetables.

People can get infected by:

  • Handling or eating raw or undercooked meat and poultry or eating contaminated fruits and vegetables.
  • Coming into contact with animals or animal feces (either by directly touching it or through irrigation water, drinking water, or recreational water).

Protect Yourself and Others from Antibiotic Resistant Foodborne Illness

  • Take antibiotics only when needed.
  • Follow the Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill Guidelines.
    • Wash hands, utensils, and kitchen surfaces before preparing food, while preparing food, and before eating.
    • Use separate chopping boards and keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from food that does not need to be cooked before eating, such as salad.
    • Cook meat, poultry, and eggs to a safe minimum internal temperatureexternal icon.
  • Don’t drink raw milk.
  • Wash your hands after contact with human or animal poop, animals, or animal environments.
  • Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or are vomiting. Be especially careful preparing food for children, pregnant women, those in poor health, and older adults.
  • Report suspected illness from food to your local health department.
Learn More

CDC works closely with a number of partners including federal agencies, state and local health departments, the food industry, healthcare providers, consumer organizations, and academic institutions to address this important issue.

You can learn more about antibiotic resistance and food safety from the following resources:

You can learn more about antibiotics and healthcare from the following resources:

You can get state- and city-specific fact sheets describing CDC’s key investments to combat antibiotic resistance with this online resource: