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MRSA Superbugs in U.S. Retail Meat

MRSA, methicillin resistant Staph aureus, now kills more Americans every year than AIDS, and it’s invaded our meat supply. Last week, the largest survey of U.S. retail meat was published and found the highest level of contamination to date. Three hundred ninety-five pork samples were collected off the shelves of a total of 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Twenty-six (6.6%) were carrying MRSA.

In the hospitals where I’ve worked, MRSA requires contact precautions, meaning you can’t even walk into a MRSA-positive patient’s room unless you’re gloved, masked, and gowned. Yet we continue to let our children run up and down the meat aisle even though that’s where MRSA contamination has now been confirmed. For more on this phenomenon, today’s NutritionFacts.org video pick covers both MRSA and C. diff (Clostridium difficile) above.

We don’t yet know how many people are being infected by meat. Quoting from the study’s conclusion: “unknown is the frequency of MRSA transmission to humans, via colonization or infection from food service professional and consumer handling and consumption of raw, undercooked and cooked MRSA-positive meat.”

The new study found no significant difference in MRSA prevalence in conventional pork (6.3% contaminated) versus alternative “raised without antibiotics” pork products (7.4% contamination). The researchers suggest this may be due to cross-contamination in the slaughterplant. Previous studies have implicated pig confinement operations as particularly risky. Watch the 90 second video Airborne MRSA for more on the role of swine CAFOs.

For background on the threat of routinely feeding antibiotics to farm animals, watch Drug Residues in Meat (6 min) and U.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph (3 min). As the Director-General of the World Health Organization recently warned about multidrug-resistant pathogens like MRSA, “the world is heading toward a post-antibiotic era in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, will kill unabated.”

Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

116 comments

+ add your own
4:50AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Very scary. Thanks for the article.

4:02PM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

That's Horrible, TY for Sharing!

10:23AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

noted

3:51AM PDT on Sep 7, 2012

thanks for sharing

8:28AM PDT on Aug 30, 2012

good to know

8:26AM PDT on Jun 28, 2012

yuk

8:12PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

Scary I had MRSA. I learned it can be fatal if it gets into the bloodstream. The FD.A. wants to oversee the Chicken houses

10:05AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

No flesh for me!

11:35AM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Scary, really makes me want to try and stick to a vegan lifestyle!

5:38PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

this is scary, thanks for bringing it to attention

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