The American Health Institute, the association that represents large agriculture and pharmaceutical industries, supports the NARMS monitoring program as "it provides an important early warning system on the potential for the emergence of antibiotic resistance bacteria," said Ron Phillips, vice president for legislative and public affairs, in an e-mail.
"NARMS is comprised of three arms that track resistant bacteria in humans, animals and retail meat. Based on historic data, there have been no discernible trends or patterns found between antibiotic resistance and the numbers reported in each group."
Mike Doyle, a microbiologist with the University of Georgia and the director for the university's Center for Food Safety, said, "We need to put these tests in perspective. It's no surprise that you would find salmonella and Campylobacter and E. coli, but if you look at the numbers, these are low levels and in the case of salmonella, for instance, we are seeing a decrease in multidrug-resistant strains in humans."
Doyle said farmers should use fewer antibiotics with their livestock, which he believes has happened over the past few years. "I predict within the next five years, the concept of using antibiotics as a prophylactic with animals is not going to continue."
Federal safety guidelines suggest handling meat with care. Thorough cooking can kill bacteria, and washing your hands before and after touching meat can prevent the spread of disease.
"My husband teases me that I'm too vigilant when I buy turkey and put it in a plastic bag and put it on the bottom shelf of the grocery cart, away from everything else," Undurraga said.
But, she noted, studies have shown a risk factor for salmonella in children riding in shopping carts near raw meat or poultry. "I think you can't be too careful," she said.