This study estimated the prevalence of Escherichia coli isolates in fresh retail milk-fed veal scallopini pieces obtained from grocery stores in Ontario, Canada. In addition, the prevalence and antimicrobial resistance patterns were examined for points of public health significance. One hundred fifty-three milk-fed veal samples were collected over the course of two sampling phases, January to May 2004 and November 2004 to January 2005. E. coli isolates were recovered from 87% (95% confidence interval, 80.54 to 91.83%) of samples, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing was conducted on 392 isolates. The prevalence of resistance to one or more antimicrobials was 70% (274 of 392), while the resistance to five or more antimicrobials was 33% (128 of 392). Resistance to ceftiofur (2.8%), ceftriaxone (3.6%), nalidixic acid (12%), and ciprofloxacin (3.8%) alone or in combination was observed. Eighty-five resistance patterns were observed; resistance to tetracycline only (7.4%) was observed most frequently. Individual antimicrobial resistance prevalence levels were compared with grain-fed veal and retail beef data from samples collected in Ontario. In general, resistance to individual antimicrobials was observed more frequently in E. coli isolates from milk-fed veal than in isolates from grain-fed veal and beef. Resistance to one or more antimicrobials and to five or more antimicrobials in E. coli isolates was more frequent in isolates from milk-fed veal than in isolates from grain-fed veal and beef. This study provides baseline data on the occurrence of resistance in E. coli isolates from milk-fed veal that can be compared with data for other commodities. Additionally, E. coli resistance patterns may serve as an indicator of antimicrobial exposure.

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Author notes

Present address: Department of Ecosystem & Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, TRW 2D22, 3330 Hospital Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 2Z6.