Senior Health: Harmful Bacteria in Meat Products

May 8th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

A group of researchers in Flagstaff, Arizona, documented the presence of drug-resistant staph in meat products in the United States in a recent study.  The LA Times reported in April, 2010, “The new study about drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus found in meat and poultry samples certainly sounds alarming — such bacteria can cause serious infections in humans and can even lead to death.”

In 2010, the FDA urged meat producers to use less antibiotics in the animals they raise for meat production; Federal officials said antibiotics should not be used to promote growth and increase production. A food scientist at Louisiana State University, in 2009, found MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus areus) in 40% of the pork she examined.  The ‘easy fix’, recommended by scientists and researchers, is to use protective gloves when handling potentially contaminated meat, since the staph is transmitted primarily through the skin.

However, the concern is that increasingly we see worldwide reports of humans suffering from drug-resistant staph infections, sometimes even causing death.  If  it is possible that the meat industry is contributing to antibiotic resistance, we consumers are at risk for more potentially serious health issues in the future just because of what we eat.  And we seniors are the most vulnerable of the at-risk population.

There aren’t any good answers at this point.  We need to be watchful.  We need to support regulation of the meat industry that prevents unnecessary use of antibiotics to increase production.  Monetary greed at the expense of our health is not acceptable.

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