Tainted Food Epidemic: Staph Bacteria Found on Half of Meat, Poultry Products

Tainted Food Epidemic: Staph Bacteria Found on 25% of Meat, Poultry in StoresConsumers headed to the grocery store may soon be giving organic foods a second look, following a national study that found many meat and poultry samples tested contained drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria -- otherwise known as Staph.

The study found that 47% of the meat and poultry samples taken were contaminated with Staph, and of this group, 52% of the bacterial samples found were resistant to at least three types of antibiotics, according to Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), which released the results of the study Friday.

"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," said Lance Price, director of TGen's Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health, in a statement.
"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."

But it could mean that some consumers may start paying a little more for organic meats and poultry, given that these animals are not subjected to daily supplemental antibiotics. The more antibiotics an animal receives, the less effective it generally becomes in warding off antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can emerge.

Study samples were taken from a variety of 26 retail grocery stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.

Staph bacteria, however, is relatively easy to kill, providing consumers thoroughly cook the meat and poultry. Also important is to avoid improper food handling and cross-contamination in the kitchen. So, wash your hands before and after touching raw meat and poultry, and wash cutting boards that have been used for meat before they come into contact with other foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

People exposed to Staph bacteria can suffer from a range of problems from minor skin infections to life-threatening illnesses such as sepsis, pneumonia and endocarditis. The Mayo Clinic offers this description and assessment of Staph:
Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, a type of germ commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals. Most of the time, these bacteria cause no problems or result in relatively minor skin infections.

But staph infections don't always remain skin-deep. In some circumstances, they may invade your bloodstream, urinary tract, lungs or heart.

Severe staph infections usually occur in people who are already hospitalized or who have a chronic illness or weakened immune system. But it is possible for otherwise healthy people to develop life-threatening staph infections.
Although federal food inspectors routinely check meat and poultry in retail stores for four types of drug-resistant bacteria, Staph bacteria isn't one of them, the report notes. TGen says a wider inspection program may be needed.

In breaking down the frequency that Staph was found in various meat and poultry samples, turkey topped the list. According to the study, notes a report in the Arizona Republic, 77% of turkey samples were tainted with Staph, 42% for pork, 41% for chicken and 37% for beef.

While the study pointed to Staph bacteria coming from the animals themselves, a representative from the National Turkey Federation told the Arizona Republic that the way humans handle and process the meat is a likely source of some of the contamination, since the bacteria are often found on people's hands.

Given the amount of money that's at stake for the industry if consumers start fearing to purchase poultry, it seems the National Turkey Federation and TGen will need to, well, talk turkey.

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Harriet Fishlow

In light of these findings - nothing new - why does the Republican Congress wish to intensify the Bush de-funding of the FDA? could it be that they get campaign contributions from the big meat & poultry producers and packers? These guys aren't satisfied with the profits achieved by employing underpaid, undertrained, overworked illegal immigrants?

April 18 2011 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Spencer Jones

Some clinical studies demonstrate that the nutritional supplement, colloidal silver, which has some pretty interesting antimicrobial qualities, is also very effective against MRSA. See www.ColloidalSilverCuresMRSA.com

April 18 2011 at 3:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jean

the main article from flagstaff, ariz. says nothing about organic meat; why do you make a special point of emphasizing that consumers who buy organic meat may have second thoughts. Meat marked organic comes from animals that are not fed antibiotics and their feed contains no chemicals. so what is the reason for singling out organic meat in your article.

April 18 2011 at 2:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mrfrench

There is a very simple solution...stop eating meat. We as a nation would be a lot healthier and we could end the cruel conditions that these animals are raised in.

April 17 2011 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mrfrench's comment
dougandjan864

Do eat plenty of chicken and fish and pork and beef and horse.

April 17 2011 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dougandjan864's comment
Harriet Fishlow

Chicken and pork suffer the same problems

April 18 2011 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
likes2kayak

They need to wash their hands and stop sneezing on our Chicken!!

April 17 2011 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dougandjan864

Take a piece of meat (ribeye) throw it down on the ground, stomp it, run an F250 over it, drop a frontend loader bucket on it, run a herd of cattle over it, then let me have it and I will clean it off and make it perfectly safe just by cooking to the proper temperature. I'll guarantee you can then test for staph or any pathogen and it will be negative.

April 17 2011 at 8:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
LA is Best

Mmmmmmm Staphylococcus aureus bacteria one of my favorites, yummy!

April 17 2011 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
cutbeef1

AS A SMALL MEAT MARKET OWNER, YOU SAID STAPH CAN BE KILLED EASILY ( IN THE BOTTOM HALF OF YOUR ARTICLE.) AFTER YOU SPREAD PANIC IN THE FIRST HALF. YOU DIDN'T MENTION THAT IF THE "ORGANIC" ANIMALS DIDN'T HAVE ANTIBIOTICS, THEY WOULD BE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO BACTERIA AND INFECTIONS DID YOU? MEDIA IS MORE THAN HALF RESPONSIBLE FOR THE IGNORANCE AND PANIC IN THIS COUNTRY, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE GOING BY GOVT. GUIDELINES AND INFORMATION. CHECK OUT YOUR CHILD'S DAYCARE FACILITY AND SEE WHAT KIND OF BACTERIA THEY HAVE! I'LL BET YOU QUIT YOUR USELESS JOB!

April 17 2011 at 7:41 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
welroundedeileen

My dad (who would be over 100 years old now) always told us " if you knew what a chicken and turkey
ate you wouldn't want to eat them. I guess he was right. He was a farm boy and didn't need the
government wasting money on this study.

April 17 2011 at 6:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
elizabethsterba

WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS!!! And thoroughly cook your meat. I'm not too much of a meat eater, but when I do eat, it has to be done, done, done.

April 17 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply