Retail pork products in the US have a higher prevalence of methicillin-resistant bacteria (MRSA) than previously identified. MRSA can occur in the environment and in raw meat products, and is estimated to cause around 185,000 cases of food poisoning each year. The bacteria can also cause serious, life-threatening infections of the bloodstream, skin, lungs and other organs. MRSA is resistant to a number of antibiotics.
When researchers collected 395 raw pork samples from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey, they found that 7% carried MRSA superbugs. Epidemiologist Tara Smith says, "This study shows that the meat we buy in our grocery stores has a higher prevalence of staph than we originally thought. With this knowledge, we can start to recommend safer ways to handle raw meat products to make it safer for the consumer."
Will buying your meat from the health food store solve the problem. Alas, no: The study also found no significant difference in MRSA contamination between conventional pork products and those raised without antibiotics or antibiotic growth hormones.
Smith says, "We were surprised to see no significant difference in antibiotic-free and conventionally produced pork, though it’s possible that this finding has more to do with the handling of the raw meat at the plant than the way the animals were raised."
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