Would you like some MRSA with that burger?

In factory farms, Organic Food on May 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in Petri dish

MRSA in culture dish

What does MRSA have to do with meat?  Great question with a scary answer.  MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has been known to doctors for over 50 years.  It was one of the first bacteria to become immune to our commonly used antibiotics and it has been with us almost as long as we’ve had antibiotics.

Through most of this time, MRSA was found only in hospitals, linked to the patients and hospital wards where the most antibiotics were used.  More recently, a close cousin of every hospital’s worst nightmare got ‘loose’ and has spread like crazy through our schools, homes, and locker rooms.  Most doctors have come to know that skin infections aren’t nearly as easy to treat as they used to be and we’ve adjusted, changing tactics and medicines, trying to stay a step ahead of this ‘superbug.’

Well, while human medicine got a clue, veterinary medicine has not yet, at least at the feed-lot level.  The majority of animals raised in high-density farming operations as these feed-lots are called, get force fed antibiotics in their food to stave off infections caused by the severe overcrowding they face.

According to a recent article in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Andrew Waters and colleagues found MSRA in 24% of the meat and poultry tested!  This wasn’t fancy stuff either; they went to regular grocery stores in five of our biggest cities and bought turkey, beef, pork, and chicken.  They ground it up and put it in Petri dishes, then stood back to see what they found.  Isn’t it pretty?

S. aureus in meat by type

We already know about enterohemorrhagic E. coli killing fast food eaters now and then, but now there’s MRSA too?

As long as we do factory farming, we should expect our food to be full of chemicals and contaminants.  Want to eat differently?  Great!  Shop local, buy organic and free-range, and go to restaurants that do the same.  It’s simple (not easy, just simple) and we can change our food one person at a time.  Don’t settle for chemical-filled, factory-farmed, half-fake food!


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