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Food Poisoning Health Center

Study: Drug-Resistant Bacteria in U.S. Meat

Researchers Find Superbugs in Raw Turkey, Pork, Beef, and Chicken Sold in Grocery Stores
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 15, 2011 -- There’s a new reason to be careful when handling raw meat at mealtimes.

Researchers testing raw turkey, pork, beef, and chicken purchased at grocery stores in five different cities across the U.S. say that roughly one in four of those samples tested positive for a multidrug antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacterium.

“The findings were pretty shocking,” says study researcher Lance B. Price, PhD, director of the Center of Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Ariz.  “We found that 47% of the samples were contaminated with Staph aureus, and more than half of those strains were multidrug resistant, or resistant to three or more antibiotics.”

The presence of drug-resistant staph bacteria, a category that includes methicillin-resistant Staphylococccus aureus (MRSA), in farm animals and food has been a closely watched problem in Europe, where it has been traced to outbreaks of human disease.

But less has been known about its prevalence in the U.S. food supply.

“We haven’t looked at this before in the United States,” says Price. “What we don’t know is whether people can pick it up through meat. This is the first time that we’ve even recognized that it’s there.”

“We don’t know where these are coming from, and it’s really something that we have to understand,” he says.

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