Bacteria in grocery meat resistant to antibiotics

NEW YORK Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:14pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Researchers have found high levels of bacteria in meat commonly found on grocery store shelves, with more than half of the bacteria resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, according to a study released on Friday.

While the meat commonly found in grocery stores is still safe to eat, consumers should take precautions especially in handling and cooking, the chief researcher for the study said.

The study by the Arizona-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGRI) examined 136 meat samples from 26 grocery stores in Illinois, Florida, California, Arizona and Washington D.C.

Dr. Lance Price, the head researcher on the study, said high levels of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria were found in the meat.

"Staph causes hundreds of thousands of infections in the United States every year," Price said in an interview. "It causes a whole slew of infections ranging from skin infections to really bad respiratory infections like pneumonia."

Staph infections also kill more people in the United States each year than HIV, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said that the agency was aware of the TGRI findings, and similar studies of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meats, and was working with the U.S. Agriculture Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the causes and effects.

"FDA has been monitoring the situation. The TGRI study points out that the public health relevance of the findings is unclear. FDA continues to work with CDC and USDA to better understand this issue," the FDA spokeswoman said.

Price said the most significant findings from the study aren't the level of bacteria they found, but rather how the bacteria in the meat was becoming strongly resistant to antibiotics farmers use to treat the animals they slaughter.

The study found that in 96 percent of the meats with staph bacteria the bacteria were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic, and 52 percent were resistant to three or more types.

"The bacteria is always going to be there. But the reason why they're resistant is directly related to antibiotic use in food animal production," Price said. "Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to public health we face today."

"This is one more reason to be very careful when you're handling raw meat and poultry in the kitchen," Price said. "You can cook away these bacteria. But the problem is when you bring in that raw product, you almost inevitably contaminate your kitchen with these bacteria."

Washing hands and counters before and after handling meat and keeping other foods away from uncooked meat are ways to prevent disease from spreading, Price said. But consumer initiatives aren't going to solve the bigger problem, he said.

"To put it all on the consumer is really directing blame at the wrong end of the food chain," Price said.

Of all the types of meats where bacteria was resistant to three or more antibiotics in the study, turkey was the most resistant, followed by pork, beef and then chicken. Price said it's not clear why turkey was the most resistant.

USDA officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Source: bit.ly/e31Duc Clinical Infectious Diseases, online April 15, 2011.

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Comments (2)
living wrote:
The use of ADBAC by the slaughter houses and meat processing plants on both the meat and the surfaces is the reason for this outbreak. ADBAC was implicated in the development of the super bacterias in hospitals. Because it is a mucus membrane irritant, many nurses develop contact dermatitis, and it’s link to autism, it is no longer used in many hospitals. It was approved by the FDA for use in foods even though it has been labeled a pesticide in Canada.
We need bacterial wipes and healthy bacterial cultures to be used in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. When healthy bacterias are allowed to culture and thrive, the negative bacterias become less prevalent. We need to get out of the dark ages of disinfecting, and start reinfecting ourselves with healthy colonies of cooperating organisms.

Apr 15, 2011 5:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
OrganicTrade wrote:
Increasingly there have been concerns raised by researchers as well as legislators about the routine use of non-therapeutic levels of antibiotics by agriculture to foster growth of livestock. As a result, there has been growing interest in organic agriculture, which does not allow this practice.

Choosing foods bearing the organic label is the only way consumers can be sure meats and dairy products they buy have been produced without the use of antibiotics.

Organic practices recognize and respect the powerful nature of antibiotics. As a result, organic practices prohibit the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones or other animal drugs in animal feed for the purpose of stimulating the growth or production of livestock.

Respected organizations such as the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization have recommended against the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture in order to protect public health. Those organizations point out that such uses of antibiotics in agriculture contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Most recently, the June 2009 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives included a focus article entitled “The Landscape of Antibiotic Resistance,” which referenced research showing that the practice of using antibiotics at sub-therapeutic levels in livestock feed and water has led to the persistence of these antibiotics in the environment and the possibility of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics produced in the United States are used for ‘non-therapeutic” purposes in industrial food animal production, according to The Union of Concerned Scientists, which defines ‘non-therapeutic’ as the use of antibiotics in the absence of diagnosed disease.

Food animals on industrial farms often are routinely fed antibiotics in food and water to promote weight gain and feed efficiency, and to compensate for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. This is not allowed in organic agriculture.

Organic producers are required by the organic standards to provide living conditions and health care practices that help prevent illness and to promote health of the animals.

In addition to prohibiting the use of antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones in organic livestock production, U.S. national organic standards require organic livestock to be fed 100 percent organic feed and given access to pasture and the outdoors. The standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, toxic and persistent pesticides, and sewage sludge on fields. Organic operations are federally regulated, with third-party certification by a U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited certifier.

Apr 18, 2011 11:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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