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Meat Analysis Finds Drug Resistant Bacteria in Pork

On November 27, U.S. News & World Report reported on a new analysis by Consumer Reports— pork samples from around the country contains bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses and may be resistant to antibiotic treatment. According to the analysis, nearly 70 percent of pork chops and ground pork sampled contained bacteria that cause entero-colitis, which infects about 100,000 Americans each year. Salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria were also found in many of the samples. “Some of the bacteria we found in 198 samples proved to be resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat people,” according to the analysis. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been an emerging worry for public health officials: Earlier this year, the World Health Organization warned that gonorrhea was quickly becoming untreatable, with antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in 37 states. Although meat that is properly cooked should be safe for consumption, but scientists have confirmed that a resistant strain of the Staphylococcus aureus that mainly infects farmers developed its resistance from antibiotics used to raise livestock. Lance Price, who wrote about Staphylococcus resistance in the journal mBio, said the agricultural industry has to stop using antibiotics as a preventative measure. “We tell physicians to stop over prescribing, tell parents not to ask for antibiotics every time their child has a stuffy nose,” Price said, “Meanwhile, we’re using 29 million pounds of antibiotics for food production.” New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, who has been trying to pass legislation that would severely limit when farmers are allowed to give antibiotics to livestock, called the Consumer Reports analysis “terrifying” and said “It’s getting harder and harder for the food processing industry and the FDA to ignore the fact that the overuse of antibiotics in animals is threatening public health. Scott Hurd, a former food safety expert with the USDA, told CBS News that the Consumer Reports analysis “used a small amount of data to frighten people.” What you can do as a consumer:

  1. When cooking pork, use a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches the proper internal temperature: at least 145° F for whole pork and 160° F for ground pork
  2. Keep raw pork separate from other foods, especially those eaten raw such as salads
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly after eating raw meat
  4. Choose pork and other meat products that were raised without drugs
  5. Look for a clear statement regarding antibiotic use
  6. Watch out for misleading labels—“Natural” has nothing to do with antibiotic use or how an animal was raised
  7. If your local supermarket doesn’t carry pork from pigs raised without antibiotics, consider asking the store to start carrying it