Urgent News for Those Who Buy Supermarket Meat

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Urgent News for Those Who Buy Supermarket MeatIn health news, a brand new study might make some waves. Watch for the ripple effect. A new study out of the University of Iowa College of Public Health has found that bacteria in retail pork products may be higher than previously thought.

Researchers found that U.S. pork products have a higher prevalence of methicillin-resistant “Staphylococcus aureus” bacteria (MRSA) than previously identified. MRSA can occur in the environment and in raw meat products, and causes about 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.

The study, published last week in the journal “PLoS ONE”, represents the largest sampling of raw meat products for MRSA contamination to date in the country. The researchers collected 395 raw pork samples from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Of these samples, 26 — or about seven percent — carried MRSA.

(This isn’t the first time we’ve had to blow the whistle on the food industry; see: Is There Cardboard in Your Food?)

What this essentially means is that the meat we buy in our grocery stores has a higher prevalence of staph bacteria than we thought. The researchers suggest that this will help food safety officials recommend safer ways to handle raw meat products to make it safer for the consumer.

The study also found no significant difference in MRSA contamination between conventional pork products and those raised without antibiotics. This was surprising to the researchers, 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.

Food poisoning is actually called “foodborne illness” and most is caused by bacteria. The problem is that you cannot detect the bacteria and germs that cause this illness, because they are not visible, do not smell, and have no taste. But that which you can’t see can multiply into the millions in just a few hours if the temperature is right.

Symptoms of foodborne illness can include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. You can’t easily tell if such symptoms are caused by food. You can start feeling sick anywhere from hours to weeks after eating the tainted food. Mostly, people get sick within a few days after eating food that has become contaminated. Older adults are among the most likely to become seriously sick from eating contaminated food.

A safer way to prepare pork can help you eliminate or limit bacteria in your food; this includes cooking your pork to a specific temperature. The United States Department of Agriculture says that you should cook ground pork mixtures (such as patties and meat loaf) to 160°F and other cuts of raw pork, such as pork chops and pork roast, to at least 145°F. If you have a compromised immune system, perhaps you should avoid pork products for now.

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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »