A new report, saying that risky forms of Staph bacteria are showing up in supermarkets at “unexpectedly high rates,” is raising concerns about whether the US meat and poultry industries are relying too heavily on antibiotic drugs.
Nearly half of meat and poultry samples in the nationwide study — 47 percent — were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that medical experts link to various human diseases. Of that amount, more than half the bacteria were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.
The group said its findings raise concerns that widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed makes industrial farms breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that can move from animals to humans.
“The fact that drug-resistant [Staph] was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today,” Lance Price, senior author of the study, said in a statement released with the report.
Microbiology experts including Dr. Price worry that the rise in drug-resistant bacteria makes it harder to treat Staph-related diseases. “Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics — like we saw in this study — that leaves physicians few options,” Price said. The research institute notes that proper cooking kills the bacteria, although it can also pose a risk “through improper food handling and cross-contamination in the kitchen.”
Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples–covering 80 brands–of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C.. DNA testing suggested that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination. The study was funded through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.
The American Meat Institute issued a news release saying the nation’s meat and poultry supply is “among the safest in the world.” The association, representing red meat and turkey processors, took special issue with the size of the study: “It is notable that the study involved only 136 samples of meat and poultry from 80 brands in 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities. This small sample is insufficient to reach the sweeping conclusions conveyed in a news release about the study.” The statement also says that when raw meat is handled properly and cooked thoroughly, heat will destroy bacteria whether or not they are resistant to antibiotics.
However, Caroline DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., said the study results suggest that consumers might benefit by wearing gloves when they handle raw meat. “It’s making us rethink our advice to the public,” she said.
(The content above originally appeared in the LA Times.)
So, now is the penalty for an undercooked burger or having a paper cut when handling meat a staph infection that is resistant to up to nine different antibiotics? I’m not comfortable starting to don a hazmat suit when handling red meat. I’ll continue to get my beef from the neighbor down the road and local locker and my poultry from the back yard!
one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #204″