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MRSA contamination in U.S. retail pork higher than known

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Retail pork in the U.S. with higher contamination from MRSA than known

A study finds levels of MRSA in United States retail pork are higher than previously known. The study, conducted by Iowa College of Public Health and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, found MRSA in pork produced with and without antibiotics.

MRSA can cause life-threatening illness and from food poisoning. The bacteria occurs in the environment naturally. If bacteria enters the bloodstream, organ damage and failure can ensue.

MRSA also causes skin infections that can be difficult to treat because of antibiotic resistance.

For the study, researchers collected samples of raw pork from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey, finding 7 percent contained MRSA, four rounds of sampling that were performed weekly between September and October 2010.

The finding showed MRSA is present in pork to the same extent as what is found in Canada, but higher than previously known in the U.S.

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Study author Tara Smith, Ph.D., interim director of the UI Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases and assistant professor of epidemiology said, "With this knowledge, we can start to recommend safer ways to handle raw meat products to make it safer for the consumer."

Smith said the researchers were surprised to find no difference in MRSA contamination between conventionally raised and antibiotic-free produced pork.

The study finding comes from the largest sampling of pork for MRSA contamination in the United States to date.

The authors say the finding doesn’t show how much contamination was in the pork initially. “Also unknown is the frequency of MRSA transmission to humans, via colonization or infection from food service professional and consumer handling and consumption of raw, undercooked and cooked MRSA-positive meat.”

O'Brien AM, Hanson BM, Farina SA, Wu JY, Simmering JE, et al. (2012) MRSA in Conventional and Alternative Retail Pork Products. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30092. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030092

Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Author: Mendaliv