Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meat Roulette, Anyone?

It’s getting more and more risky to buy and consume conventional meats and other foods. Adding to the issues of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and more is the shocking study revealing that nearly half of America’s meat harbors drug-resistant bacteria.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute found that Staphylococcus aureus— the bacteria responsible for most Staph infections such as blood poisoning, skin infections and pneumonia—was present in meat from U.S. grocery stores at “unexpectedly high rates.” The researchers determined that 47 percent of the 80 brands of meat and poultry sampled were contaminated with S. aureus. Additionally, 52 percent of those bacteria were resistant to three classes of antibiotics.

Dr. Lance Price, senior author of the study, said, “For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial. The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today.”

Check out Dr. Lance Price discussing antibiotic resistance, antibiotics overuse in livestock and the antibiotic-resistant cliff we’re heading towards:

Additionally, findings published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease indicated that industrial farms where food animals are fed low doses of antibiotics “are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans.”

And it does move from animals to humans. Approximately 90,000 Americans die from hospital-acquired infections each year—and about 70 percent of them are antibiotic resistant.

Then there’s E. coli.

Each year, thousands of people are sickened by E. coli and hamburger is the main source. A New York Times article says that eating conventional ground beef is a gamble because the systems used to make meat and to ensure that it's "safe" are not as efficient as most people might think they are. The article highlights that hamburger meat is a hodge-podge of different grades of meat from different parts of cows and various slaughterhouses, making them especially vulnerable to E. coli contamination. The truth is that the average hamburger can come from parts of as many as 1,000 different cows.

Some hamburgers eaten resulting in severe E. coli contamination and subsequent hospitalization or death, were found to have been made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and mashed scraps—low-grade cuts from areas of cows most likely to come into contact with feces. The meat was ground together from slaughterhouses in various states as well as an additional company that treats the meat with ammonia to kill the bacteria. Interestingly, many big slaughterhouses will sell their meat only to grinders who agree to not test it for E. coli, according to two large grinding companies.

No doubt that’s why E. coli outbreaks continue.

Additionally, many fast food places and some schools have been using hamburger filler made of fatty meat scraps, which are often more contaminated than regular meat. Prior to recent times, these scraps were used only in pet foods and conventional cooking oils, but now they’re used to feed people, including children. E. coli and salmonella have been found in these fillers, but, again, ammonia is used to kill the bacteria. You may not have been aware of this ammonia practice, but the federal government is.

Those are just a few of the safety issues surrounding beef and other meat.

So, don’t play meat roulette. Instead, choose the healthiest meat possible.