US/World

America's Supermarket Meat Contaminated With Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs: What Now?

Antibiotic resistant bacteria is on supermarket meat
The majority of all meat found in supermarkets is contaminated with bacteria that are not susceptible to antibiotic intervention. Pixabay Creative Commons

The Environmental Working Group has released a report on data that the FDA collected in 2011 and reported in 2013 concerning the prevalence of superbugs found on grocery store meats, and boy is it scary. The report, called the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, is a joint project between the federal Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report indicated that antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter, two bacterial species that are known to cause severe foodborne illness, are more commonly found grocery store meats than you may have thought. In 2011, the year the data was collected, 81 percent of all ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, and 39 percent of chicken meats contained superbugs that had evidence of antibiotic resistance. 

Food poisoning results in 3.6 million cases a year in the United States and can lead to serious health conditions besides just diarrhea. In some cases, for example, Salmonella can lead to arthritis and Campylobacter can result in a rare but serious disases called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which results in paralysis.

The report found that 87 percent of all store-bought meat contained bacteria, both regular and antibiotic resistant strains. Fifty-three percent of all chicken samples tested contained antibiotic-resistant E. coli. This is particularly alarming because E. coli has the ability to share antibiotic resistance genes between individual bacterium.

The issue with the large presence of antibiotic-resistant strains of foodborne pathogens rests in the fact that if someone becomes ill with a food poisoning as a result, their treatment options are severely limited.  Antibiotics that once were able to clear a harmful infection would be useless against superbug strains.

The reasons for the avalanche of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains is because the majority of antibiotics sold in this country are used on animals, by close to four times compared to the amount used for people.

Ways to prevent such illnesses is to keep uncooked meats seperated from fresh produce, not use the same utensils for raw meat and uncooked fruits and vegitables, use sepeate cutting boards for meats and veggies and cooking meats throroughly to kill any bacteria. 

The report suggests other ways way to curb this is to reduce the antibiotics used in animals and consume organic meats:

EWG recommends that consumers assume that all meat is contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. They can avoid superbugs in meat by eating less factory-farmed meat, by buying meat raised without antibiotics and by following other simple tips in EWG's downloadable Tips to Avoiding Superbugs in Meat.  

  

For more information, read an analysis of the report on the EWG website here

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