Staph found in half of US meat, suggests antibiotic overuse

Roz Zurko's picture

Risky forms of Staph bacteria are showing up in supermarkets at “unexpectedly high rates” and is raising the concerns of the U.S. meat and poultry industries.

According to the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, samples of meat and poultry taken nationwide show that almost half were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. This type of Staph bacteria is linked to various human diseases.

The results of the study, which found that 47 percent of the meat and poultry tested was contaminated with the Staph bacteria, may be the result of the meat and poultry industries relying too heavily on antibiotic drugs.

The study has also raised concerns that the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed is rendering the industrial farms breeding grounds for drug resistant bacteria that can move from animals to humans.

The findings of this study demands attention as to how antibiotics are used in food-animals production today, according to Lance Price, the author of the study. Dr. Price, as well as microbiology experts are worried that the rise in drug-resistant bacteria will make it harder to treat Staph-related diseases.

While proper cooking of the food does kill the bacteria, the main risks come with the handling of the food and cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Backers of organic foods hailed the report as a call for change in industrial farming practices, according to Yahoo News. On the other side of the coin, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement, “Pew Charitable Trusts, an agenda-driven organization on this issue, funded this study, which concludes that its extremely small sample size was insufficient to accurately estimate prevalence rates and that the public health relevance of this finding is unclear,” according to Yahoo News.

The non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute conducted this study using grant funding from Pew’s Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. The study is published in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did recommend in limiting the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs on U.S. farms and ranches.

Craig Goodwin, author of “Year of Plenty,” a book about his family’s experience during a year of relying on food that was locally or home grown, called this study on Staph, “an important data point in the debate about the impact of antibiotic use in raising farm animals.”

According to the study, “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 with few options.”

Dr. Paul Keim, PhD, Director of Tgen’s Pathogen Genomics Division and Director of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at Northern Arizona University, says that, “This study shows that much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with multi-drug-resistant Staph. Now we need to determine what this means in terms of risk to the consumer.”

Reference: Translational Genomics Research Institute, Yahoo News

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