A new study has recently been released that shows nearly half of U.S. meat is tainted with staph bacteria. Worse, roughly 50 percent of the meat found to contain the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), also was found to have a resistance to at least three classes of antibiotics.
The study was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases journal on April 15.
Marissa Cevallos and P.Jl. Huffstutter, LA Times, reported researchers tested 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from a variety of grocery stores and found the contamination. The samples collected for the purpose of study represented 80 different brands and were purchased in Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, and Flagstaff, Ariz.
According to the report, DNA testing illuminated that perhaps the animals themselves were the source of the contamination. Lead author of the research, Lance Price, believes the antibiotics routinely given to animals, even healthy ones, is the culprit. He indicated the animals, placed in crowded pens and being dosed regularly with the antibiotics, created an environment that “most likely harbored these drug-resistant pathogens” according to the LA Times report.
Price told the Times “These findings really point to serious problems with the way food animals are raised in the U.S. today.”
Price also said more research needs to be conducted. Amanda Gardner, Health.com (courtesy of CNN) reported the researcher said additional studies of tainted meats and overuse of antibiotics in animals could help quantify the public health impact and better determine transfer to humans.
There has been a growing concern about overuse of antibiotics in general, but specifically in food. In June 2010 the FDA urged the meat industry to scale back on use of these drugs to reduce the levels of drug-resistant bacteria emerging. Even as far back as 2003, fast food giant McDonald’s was urging the meat industry to stop using antibiotics on livestock due to the increased concern this practice of dosing healthy animals with preventative antibiotics would lead to ineffective antibiotic use in humans.
Price, who is the director of the Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, said “Our lifesaving medications are being used as tools to make animals grow faster. We must do everything we can to protect these antibiotics that protect our health.”
Other experts state that consumers who keep good practices in handling and cooking meat should be OK. However, this information has spurned reconsiderations of exactly what constitutes proper handling of meat when preparing and eating. One health expert suggested perhaps consumers should be advised to wear gloves when preparing meats.
The research was funded by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, an agency that opposes the practice of placing antibiotics in animal feed.
The American Meat Institute maintains the U.S. meat supply is safe.