Science in the News

I recently posted a picture of a Daily Mail news headline on my Facebook profile to see the reaction of people to it. The headline read ‘2 in 3 chickens have superbug’ with the caption ‘major study reveals shocking number of shop- bought birds are infected by antibiotic- resistant E. coli’. I thought that most people would just look at it and think that someone else can deal with it and scroll on past.

After the great comments about there being no E. coli in cake and chocolate, there was one person that commented about the Happy Egg Company vaccinating their hens against Salmonella instead of feeding them antibiotics. This is a valid point and I’m glad they pointed out a company that is doing something to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. However, it sparked a bit of controversy in the comments section of my post.

Another person commented that you can’t vaccinate the surface of a chicken, which is true. It also draws on the fact that during the slaughter process E. coli and Salmonella from the guts of the chickens contaminates the outside of the chickens despite procedures put in place to prevent this. Unfortunately this comment was written in a condescending tone and probably didn’t sit well with the person it was aimed at.

Someone else commented on the post about the media timing on this, their comment read:

You just gotta love the corporate media. There was like 0 coverage on the past antimicrobial resistance week, but now they are publishing a big scary “superbug” headline right under “A woman spent everything on her dog”. Instead of creating paranoia among the population they should educate the people but I guess that wouldn’t sell as well.’

This is by far my favourite comment! I couldn’t find a way to summarise it better and what this person says is so true; some people aren’t interested in being educated, only scaring them will make them sit up and listen! I suppose the way that the newspaper has gone about publicising this issue is wrong and some of the wording is inaccurate but maybe this is the kick in the backside that people need to pay attention.

I did have a skim through the online version of this article and it was incredibly long. Even I had to take a break from reading it because of the repetitive nature of the writing. I can see how some people would drink this information in though, and claim they were an expert. I’d like to read this study that they refer to in the article and see how they have interpreted it; even the short amount of time that I spent reading it flagged up a lot of ambiguity and poor understanding of the subject. Their facts and figures also leave something to be desired and they don’t even put E. coli in italics!

My worry is that people will form an opinion of the issue just from this article which leaves important statements about the scale and severity of the problem until the end. I assume that most people will have dosed off by the time they reach it. There is also a particularly opinionated piece at the very end where the writer continually points the blame at different organisations and uses strong emotive language to convey their point. It’s infuriating.

However, I do think that this has maybe brought the issue of antibiotic resistance to the public’s attention again and even though cooking the chicken will get rid of the bacteria, it won’t get rid of antibiotic resistance.

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