Almost half of the meat and poultry in U.S. grocery stores – 47 percent – is contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria, according to a new study from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
The study also found that 52 percent of those bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.
“For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial,” said Lance B. Price, the study’s senior author and head of TGen’s Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health.
Staph is a dangerous bacteria linked to skin infections, pneumonia, sepsis, endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves), blood poisoning and sometimes fatal infections. It is killed when the meat is properly cooked but the fact that it is present on so much meat and poultry raises concerns about handling and cross-contamination. The USDA surveys meat for four types of drug resistant bacteria but Staph is not one of them.
The research involved 136 samples out of 80 brands of beef, turkey pork and chicken, collected from 26 grocery stores in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Flagstaff.
“The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus 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,” Dr. Price said.
In industrial and factory farm situations, animals are routinely fed antibiotics to combat the rampant spread of disease caused by overcrowded and unhealthy conditions. When animals are slaughtered for consumption, they still contain residues of antibiotics that humans become exposed to when they eat animal products. This has contributed to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, Staph being one of them.
“Skipping meat is perhaps the best way to reduce your risk of exposure to these bugs,” said Mindy Pennbacker in the Huffington Post.
Even if you are 100 percent vegan, there’s a still a chance you can come into contact with dangerous bacteria, so take care to wash everything – counter surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, produce – with hot water and soap and buy organic whenever possible.
Are you concerned about bacteria, pesticides and other harmful chemicals in your food? How do you avoid ingesting harmful substances or keep your food safe?
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