Nationwide study finds US meat and poultry is widely contaminated

April 15, 2011, The Translational Genomics Research Institute

Drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria linked to a wide range of human diseases, are present in meat and poultry from U.S. grocery stores at unexpectedly high rates, according to a nationwide study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Nearly half of the and samples — 47 percent — were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those — 52 percent — were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

This is the first national assessment of antibiotic resistant S. aureus in the U.S. food supply. And, DNA testing suggests that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination.

Although Staph should be killed with proper cooking, it may still pose a risk to consumers through improper food handling and cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples — covering 80 brands — of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail in five U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C.

"For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial," said Lance B. Price, Ph.D., senior author of the study and Director of TGen's Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health.

"The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today," Dr. Price said.

Densely-stocked industrial farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics, are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans, the report says.

"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 few options," Dr. Price said.

"The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria — including Staph — remains a major challenge in clinical medicine," said Paul S. Keim, Ph.D., Director of TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division and Director of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

"This study shows that much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with multidrug-resistant Staph. Now we need to determine what this means in terms of risk to the consumer," said Dr. Keim, a co-author of the paper.

The U.S. government routinely surveys retail meat and poultry for four types of drug-resistant bacteria, but S. aureus is not among them. The paper suggests that a more comprehensive inspection program is needed.

S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia, endocarditis and sepsis.

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6 comments

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dogbert
5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2011
Densely-stocked industrial farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics, are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans, the report says.


We have known about the problems associated with the profligate use of antibiotics in the production of food animals for years and we have done not a single thing to curtail the practice.

Our FDA requires us to have a prescription for antibiotics before we can have them (with minor exceptions, such as antibiotic ointments), but allows numerous antibiotics to be added to animal feed stock and allows antibiotic injections of food animals with no control at all.

It is a very safe bet that nothing at all will ever be done to stop this.
Wolf358
4 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2011
This is where we learn about cost/benefit analysis; in other words, gambling with lives.
dogbert
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2011
Gambling supposes a possibility of winning.

We know profligate use of antibiotics is creating super resistant pathogens. We know that such pathogens attack and sometimes kill people. It is a no win situation.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2011
"Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples 47 percent were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria 52 percent were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases."
And they all had USDA govt approved on the package.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2011
Gambling supposes a possibility of winning.
For the company involved that is exactly what they're doing. They're waging lives against profit. If they don't kill anyone in a way that indicates they're responsible, they continue to get profit at a cheaper cost, (read:more profit).
We know profligate use of antibiotics is creating super resistant pathogens. We know that such pathogens attack and sometimes kill people. It is a no win situation.
I completely agree with you on this bit. The Danes have already proved that one can get as great a yield through minor changes in animal husbandry practices. Which in turn also saves large amounts of money which would otherwise be spent on antibiotics.
PPihkala
not rated yet Apr 16, 2011
Still wonder why here in Europe pre-emptive antibiotic use for animals is forbidden?

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