Use Protection: Half of US Meat and Poultry Contaminated

Dr. Greene’s take on contaminated meat…

Use Protection: Half of US Meat and Poultry Contaminated

Researchers found Staph bacteria in 47 percent of nationwide samples of ground beef, chicken breasts, chicken thighs, pork chops, ground pork, ground turkey, and turkey cutlets. More than half of the bacteria were serious, multidrug resistant strains — resistant to at least three families of antibiotics. These were most common in turkey (79 percent), followed by pork (64 percent), beef (35 percent), and chicken (26 percent). Some were resistant to as many as nine different antibiotics. And 96 percent of all samples were resistant to at least one family of antibiotics.

Staph infections are among the most common infections globally. Multidrug resistant Staph, such as MRSA, is a growing health threat – causing the full spectrum from minor skin infections to death. A new multidrug-resistant strain of MRSA, ST398, most affects people who work in food animal production.

Our food may be a major source of all of these infections. And reducing antibiotic use in food animals may be the single most important way to reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Where Did This Problem Come From?

In the US, billions of food animals are raised in crowded factory farms. Deprived of the food and exercise ideal for their species, they are more susceptible to infection. Deprived of space, these infections can easily spread. Meanwhile, routine antibiotics are given to promote growth and to prevent infections. These are nearly ideal circumstances for the emergence and spread of multidrug resistant organisms.

What Should Parents Do?

  1. Treat all raw meat and poultry as if it were contaminated. Wash (or disinfect) hands, plates, cutting boards, cutlery, and countertops after contact with raw meat or poultry.
  2. Wear protection. Use gloves if you have any open cuts on the hands.
  3. Cook thoroughly. Thankfully, heat can kill Staph bacteria.
  4. Choose organic and pasture-fed meat and poultry. Giving animals space, exercise, and the food they were designed for – while avoiding unnecessary antibiotics – supports our own health as well as theirs.
  5. Choose organic milk. Factory dairies are a major source of unnecessary antibiotic use in the US.
  6. Enjoy meatless days.

Walter AE, Content-Cuomo T, Buchhagen J, Liu CM, Watson L, Pearce K, Foster JT, Bowers J, Driebe EM, Engelthaler DM, Keim PS, Price LB. “Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in US Meat and Poultry.” Clinical Infectious Disease. May 2011;52(10):1-4.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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