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Supply chain gone wrong: the results of the first study of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus in the U.S. food supply is not encouraging.
Scientists at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) looked at nearly 140 samples taken from 80 brands of beef, chicken, pork and turkey. After sampling the meat supply at supermarkets around the nation, researchers discovered that an alarming percentage of the meat was contaminated with multi-drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria linked to a number of human conditions.
The meat and poultry came from 26 stores from the following cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C.
Meat and poultry inspectors usually look for many types of multi-drug-resistant bacteria, but staph is often times overlooked. The bacteria can cause skin infections and can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia and sepsis.
Here's a summary of what the study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found:
- half of the meat sold in grocery stores are contaminated with S. aureus
- one in four samples were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics
- methicillin-resistant staph was found in three of the samples
- the staph are resistant to up to nine different antibioitics, making it hard to treat
However, The New York Times reports that "federal health officials estimate that staph accounts for less than 3 percent of all food-borne illnesses. In a statement Friday, the American Meat Institute said the study was misleading." Businessweek reports staph infections occur only three percent of the time and are not nearly as common as other foodborne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli.
Still, the study highlights a risky farming practice that began nearly 50 years ago. The researchers suggested that the super bug likely made its way into the food chain because farmers cram animals into a packed farm and give them unnecessary antibiotics to promote their growth. This form of antibiotic abuse has gotten so widespread that healthy farm animals now receive around 70 percent of all antibiotics administered to farm animals.
“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,” TGen's Lance Price said in a statement.
Studies as far back as 1976 have shown a link between antibiotics and the spread of drug resistant bacteria in humans, reports Wired. And last year though, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that farmers only administer antibiotics to sick animals to minimize the use of the drugs, reports CBS.
One country at least, Denmark, has paid heed to the potential risks and have quit giving their animals low-dose antibiotics. Scientists hope they won't be the only one.
via TGen News
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Light technology can combat superbugs
- A universal vaccine for superbugs is possible
- Researchers discover anti-pathogenic drugs to treat superbugs
- War against superbugs: A coating that can kill MRSA upon contact
- The fight for life against superbugs
- Scientists can shut down a superbug's CPU
Apr 17, 2011
The study has reveals some valuable facts about the meat and poultry we buy from the stores, I want to ask how can we escape us from it? http://www.barriertermite.com/
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Yuck! Bugs in my meat...don't even want to think about it! I wonder what kind of [url=http://easyphotoeditor.org/]Photo Editor[/url] do you guys use but this meat on the racks look really ugly :) I start thinking of going vegetarian. Seriously, I've heard all those warnings about health issues and I know that humans kinda need meat, but let's start facing facts: meat production techniques leave much to be desired...
Workers in meat and poultry processing do have a high incidence of resistant staph infections - but, obviously, they get it from the meat they handle. While there could be cases of meat being contaminated by infected workers, the bacteria came from the meat originally. This is one more reason to thoroughly wash your hands, knives, cutting boards, etc., after handling raw meat or poultry. If you should cut yourself while doing such work, take special care about cleaning the wound - you do not want to get an infection with this stuff!
zackers, I wondered why you were so convinced that the workers were the source, but it turns out you are spinning for the farms: "The fact that the scientists had no problem with implicating farms on a CBS report just makes it junk science." Really? Then the fact that NASA had no problems implicating the O-Rings, in their shuttle explosion, must make THAT junk science as well. Really, IF there is a problem, and IF it is tracable, then you SHOULD have "no problem" placing the blame. You spin two factors too far: first, the meat packing plants are NOT "disassembled and sterilized" every night. Yes, sterilization protocols are (we hope) adhered to, but the machinery is NOT totally taken apart (the meaning of disassembled). And you (just like the meat industry themselves) use the workers as handy pawns. Haven't you ever heard of gloves and aprons? What do you think contaminates the workers? I'll tell you: it's the MEAT that they work with every day.
ewromero (comment # 3) You need to read up on this issue, or you won't be able to comment intelligently. It's not "what kind" of antibiotics that "make" an animal put on weight faster. MOST of them will, if given at what are called "sub-theraputic" doses. I think this level of dosing just weeds out the very most vulnerable portion of the bacterial population, making the animal's internal ecosystem much simpler. It's like when the Army Corp of Engineers straightens a river: the water flows faster, but it risks easier flooding. But yes, small regular doses DO make the animal grow faster. The meat industry knows this and has been giving them to animals since the seventies at least. And the fact that we ARE "all" carriers of S. Aurea is EXACTLY why this is such a threat. The bug will implant in OUR internal ecosystems, and establish a waiting reservoir of anti-biotic resistance -- waiting for our own natural resistance to drop. Can you say "time-bomb," children? You also just need to know more about where your meat comes from, and how it's handled on the way to your intestines. But not least, note that you have started out of ignorance, and climbed clear up it, thinking that it is in fact smarts. You take the blogger to task, calling her biased, just for telling you the utter truth, because it doesn't fit the shape of your ignorance! EXACTLY backwards, dude. Get a clue, and THEN comment.
Big surprise that the meat industry says the study is "misleading." Note that that means they can find nothing wrong with either the study itself, or with its conclusions. If they could, they'd automatically escalate their criticism to calling it "flawed." So how is this "misleading?" They say that most FOOD infections are not caused by staph. So TO THE EXTENT that the study leads people to think that they WILL get a resistant staph infection from this meat, maybe people COULD be misled by the results. But that is NOT the main concern, here. The main concern is the very common existence of these bugs, and the fact that they have clear channels into the human gut -- where they will stay and breed and wait for our immunities to drop so they can breed out of control. WHERE you get the infection from matters much less in this case, than WHAT the bug is immune to (most common antibiotics), and HOW you can cure an infection of them (very, very difficult, with these bugs). So go ahead, buy the meat industry's feel-good base message: that there is nothing to worry about, and that in any case THEY are not at fault for bacterial evolution. But if you do, you've got it exactly wrong. There IS something very serious to worry about here, and it IS the meat industry's fault that it is happening. They DID evolve these organisms. Yes its true: if they WEREN'T doing it, it MIGHT still happen through "normal" medical practice, but medicine knows about this and is trying to change their ways. It's the meat industry who's turned multiple-drug-resistance into such a juggernaut that it might outstrip our every response; and their current denial of responsibility says that they intend to continue the practices that brought us to where we are.
Here is the key paragraph of the scientists' report: The distinct S. aureus populations on each product type suggest that food animals are the predominant source of contamination. While a portion of the S. aureus isolates may have been the result of human contamination, a uniform pattern of human-associated strains was not observed. Additional studies tracing S. aureus genotypes from farm to retail are required to definitively identify the sources of S. aureus contamination. In other words, they don't know where exactly the contamination occurs. They assume that because a particular strain of S. aureus generally occurs with a particular type of meat product, then the source must be animal-related, not human-related. However, it's clear the scientists did not seriously consider contamination at the meat-packing plants or test for it there. A S. aureus strain reaches the meat-packing plants, where all the meat is in contact with all the other meat and spreads throughout that plant. While each meat-packing plant line is completely disassembled and sterilized each night (it's a federal law), the study does not consider that the meat-packing plant employees themselves may carry the bacteria around on their skin and reinfect the plant each day (nobody sterilizes the employees, and there's no guarantee that they even take a bath each night or wear the same clothes each day without laundering). S. aureus is quite happy on human skin, which could be an easy source of recontamination each day. Taking the samples at the retail level and assuming the contamination must occur at the farm is just bad science. The fact that the scientists had no problem with implicating farms on a CBS report just makes it junk science.
tech_ed, see this ~ http://www.foodmag.com.au/news/drug-resistant-bacteria-found-in-nearly-half-of-us?utm_source=20110418&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletters This article is about Food we consume, not wear...or wash with.... If the meat is bad to begin with, and we cook it and eat it, we will get sick.... This is about common sense in raising our meat products, has nothing to do with sanitizers, soaps and gels, unless your comment is directed at the meat producers as being responsible in raising safe meat which is where this common sense should really be directed at, with less antibiotics,and additives that have detrimental effects to humans and consumption.
First off...Staph bacteria exist on everybody. In fact, you have staph bacteria on your body right now! But you also have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria on your skin to keep foreign bacteria at bay...unless you religiously use anti-bacteria gels...Our bodys would not be able to exist without symbiotic relationships with other bacteria...e-coli in our gut digests plant material. Bacteria on our skin keeps infections down. What becomes a problem is when these bacteria go places they shouldn't, or are not in sufficient numbers to ward off offending bacterias. People become susceptible to bacterial infections when our own bacteria has been compromised through the overuse of hand sanitizers, anti-bacteria soaps or anit-biotic drugs. These things don't only affect the bad bacteria, but also our symbiotic bacteria...And when our symbiotic bacteria is weakened, then other bacterias can find a foot-hold, like the flesh-eating bacteria or even Shingles. So, if you lay off of the anti-bacterial soaps and gels, (which do absolutely *NOTHING* to germs and viruses) don't consume raw meat and practice sanitary food preparation techniques, you should not have any problems with any sort of meat or meat related issues. I think this falls squarely under the category of "Common Sense".
Ok, let me see if I got this right? They give antibiotics because of insane cramming conditions. Wow, good to know, these poor animals are completely stressed out in their living environments... And the antibiotics that these animals are given ( excessively) has weakened their systems and now ours (only to make them grow bigger faster), and there's no telling the transfer of germs in production... Can they test the meat before it's on the shelf? And... Is it safe to assume that the GMO products will do the same when it comes down the food chain as well? Genetically modified corn, fed to genetically modified cows, fed to us? Oh, yeah that's another story... I don't get it... Is anything safe anymore or are we just making ourselves sick and our children too? And for what, corporate payoffs, convenience, demand!?! I think I'll skip dinner and grow my own nuts and berries...I may live longer...it definitely seems safer...
Is the superbug not destroyed through thoroughly cooking the meat at recommended temperatures? Can cleaning the 'tools' (that the superbug comes in contact with) in bleach not work?
sboverie, Monoculture means growing only one thing. If a farm is growing more than one kind of Animal, it's not a monoculture. For the Vegan fanatics here, there are more serious problems with Salmonella and a couple of other bacteria on vegetables. Soy (as in Tofu) is a major allergen, and also blocks the absorption of several vitamins. In the last few years, there were more deaths in the US from tainted plant based foods than from animal based foods. The need here is to monitor the food from field to table. That is in process. By the way, many of the dangerous bacteria are potentially present on both food sources. But that's OK, it's a NATURAL death!
How can we get animals out of feedlots, with these hazards of infections or resistance etc, and out of an existence that has no dignity at all? I think that we have to be ready to pay more for meat that has none of the risks and cruelty involved in industrialized production. Would doubling the price of meat meet the need of producers to make their profit? I know that feedlots have come into being because of the low margins for meat producers. That is the basic reason. Plus demand for meat I guess. Clearly, putting animals back into the fields is going to incur labor costs, other costs. I want to see a report from Smart Planet that gives us the numbers so we can begin to discuss this collectively. I begin to want the technologists to be able to grow meat in a lab, actually, just so that these issues of cruelty to animals can be avoided - or else people pay a premium price for healthy outdoor animals that have a better life while alive. I deeply honor every animal that we eat and I think I would pay more in order to realize that attitude towards our cows, pigs, chickens etc.
The actual report looked at food handling as a cause of the contmination, but presented rationale why that was an unlikely cause, particularly with the large number of samples from diverse origins. Antibiotics as a feed supplement are intented to allow the animals to grow without the growth inhibing stresses and diseases that the confined conditions would otherwise cause. References in the report and others easily found on the net all raise questions about the long term consequences of present use of antibiotics in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Aside from the meat and poultry itself, of concern is the high percentage of the antibiotics that are excreted and passed to the air, soil and water in the disposal of the excreta. The increasing dependence upon specific genetic strains in hogs and other animals to produce more uniform carcasses for meat processing intoroduces another concern about CAFOs, as well as the fact that animals are not an efficent source of protein. Contrasting with those concerns are concerns about feeding a growing world populaiton.
So many wonderful vegetarian and vegan foods to eat! Colorful, delicious, full of nutrients - just go to your local farmer's market or vegeteble stand and see all the fresh produce. No nasty dead animal parts to contend with. Wash with water, barely cook or not, and enjoy! The planet is better off and so are the people when a diet like this is observed.
I would like to know what kind of antibiotics make an animal grow faster. It was my understanding that antibiotics were used to treat infection or kill bacteria, not make animals grow faster as is indicated in the article. According to research, 20% of the human population are long-term carriers of S. aureau. I dislike this kind of biased reporting. While I don't dispute the study in question as I have not read it, I do dispute the spin of the author to make it seem as all strains are due to overuse of antibiotics caused by farming. The article makes no mention of handling of the meat and the cause of possible contamination of the meat while being processing by dozens of humans carrying the disease. Perhaps it's more an issue of sanitary conditions than it is with farming practices blamed for meat contamination. Unbiased blogging would be appropriate here, not one sided posting. Shame on you.
feeding them corn caused the animals to put on weight faster. the antibiotics were to control the germs caused by overcrowding and diet.
The use of antibiotics in the meat industry helped the animals to put on weight faster. The conditions for the animals are stressful and unhealthy when they are crowded into cages for their entire lives. Another consequence is mono culture of beef, pork and chicken makes the food industry more vulnerable to a few diseases that have to be prevented by more medication. It was a monoculture of potatoes that made the crops in Ireland that led to a major famine and a large immigration wave to the US.
Sure, meat is almost certainly the original source of the resistant staph. However, that's NOT what the scientists' paper was about. They claimed that the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics simultaneously created the same resistant version of staph bug at many different farms. Given that all these farms feed antibiotics in different amounts and started out with different staph bugs, that's hard to believe. In the paragraph I quoted, I showed that the scientists themselves had not tracked down the original source; they just made assumptions without scientific proof. As a plausible alternative, I'm simply saying that the super bugs could have originated at one farm through improper use of antibiotics, and then been spread throughout the meat found at grocery stores because of a common infection point -- either in the trucks used to haul the animals to market or in the meat packing plant itself. This would more reasonably explain why the same superbug was found in grocery stores in meat from many different farms. Am I saying that this must be the cause of the superbugs? Absolutely not. I'm just saying that accepting the scientists' implication of sub-therapeutic antibiotics when the scientists themselves said they didn't scientifically eliminate plausible alternatives is jumping to conclusions without proof. When a particular strain of flu suddenly appears in the human population, nobody believes that it suddenly appeared simultaneously in many different places. Instead, epidemiologists spend their time looking for common sources of infection. Similarly, if the same super staph bug is found in meat in many different grocery stores, why would anybody assume it didn't have a single common source?
You took my comment out of context. In their paper, which I quoted, the scientists admitted they don't know definitively where the staph came from. To then implicate the farms in a report for the general public when they don't have the scientific proof to back it up is indeed junk science. And, yes, it's the law that each meat packing line be disassembled each night and sterilized. Besides my own personal knowledge of the meat industry, I've seen documentaries on it, including one episode of "Modern Marvels". You might also want to look at http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/article.asp?id=569&sub=sub1 and http://www.beaverfish.com/index.php/services/meat-processing.html . What have you got to prove otherwise? And you misread my original post. I never denied that animals are the source of bacteria. My point is that once an animal comes through the line with a specific bug with identifiable DNA, that particular bug can be spread by workers throughout the meat packing plant (gloves and aprons won't make any difference since they often contain blood and other liquids which can transmit bacteria), and hence show up in many different grocery stores. Another possible source I didn't mention originally are the trucks used to haul these animals to the meat packing plants. These aren't sterilized between different farm pickups, so a bug from one farm can contaminate the truck and any animals shipped on the truck afterwards. I am definitely NOT claiming that I know the source of the staph; I am just saying there are many plausible alternatives that the scientists who wrote the original paper haven't considered (which they themselves admitted). If you understand science at all, you will know you can't make claims of scientific proof until all possible alternatives have been examined and eliminated. You are naive if you think it's easy to trace the source of an infection. Just look at the current E. coli scare in Europe (and previous ones here in the US). They still don't know the source of the outbreak. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304432304576369163252964714.html .