Half of U.S. Meat Contaminated With Superbugs | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Food Safety

Half of U.S. Meat Contaminated With Superbugs

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Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge Barbecue bacon burger, hold the superbugs - MALCOLM BEDELL/FROM AWAY
  • Malcolm Bedell/From Away
  • Barbecue bacon burger, hold the superbugs
Nearly half of U.S. meat is contaminated with "superbugs"--antibiotic-resistant bacteria--according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of recently released government tests. Medical News Today reported the findings.

The "dirtiest" meat is ground turkey, 81 percent of which contained the dangerous microbes. In addition, 55 percent of ground beef and 39 percent of chicken parts were contaminated.

These germs are responsible for infections and food poisoning. Once the bacteria become antibiotic-resistant -- such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA -- infections are difficult to treat and potentially fatal.

Experts blame antibiotic overuse in livestock farming for the development of the superbugs. The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming says that as much as 80 percent of pharmaceuticals sold in the U.S. are used in meat production. That's because livestock are packed together in unhealthy conditions so the animals are constantly sick or in danger of getting sick, experts say. Such "intensive farming" creates a high demand for medication. Staph, for example, "thrives in crowded and unsanitary conditions," Lance Price, director of the Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, told Medical News Today.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Program should encourage and support ranchers who raise livestock on pasture, which would reduce the likelihood of disease. The group suggests that the program also focus on limiting overcrowding of animals.

"Unlike operations that confine a large number of animals to a small area, rotational grazing allows animals access to open space. This practice improves herd health and reduces the risk of infection or sickness that would otherwise spread easily," the EWG said.

In addition to the risk of being infected with superbugs from eating or handling contaminated meat, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus CC398, also known as pig MRSA, a strain of the potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant bacterium, has jumped from food animals to humans, researchers from Northern Arizona University reported in the journal mBio last year. That puts even vegetarians at risk.

Hold the pickles, hold the onions, and for God's sake, hold the MRSA.


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