U.S. meat is largely contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria?

CNN is reporting that a study, published on April 15 in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Medical Journal, confirms that meat and poultry in the United States is widely contaminated with multi-drug resistant bacteria.


The study utilized 136 samples out of 80 brands of beef, turkey, pork, and chicken, and found that 47% of them carry the type of bacteria that commonly leads to staph infections. Furthermore, 52% of the contaminated samples were resistant to at least 3 types of antibiotics.

The Los Angeles Times reveals that DNA testing suggested that the animals were the source of contamination. It is likely that the drug-resistant pathogens propagated within the animals because the latter are routinely  fed antibiotics to promote growth and prevent diseases in crowded pens or large farms.

While this type of study leads to the usual criticism of the widespread handling of antibiotics within the United States, some scientists believe that is premature to conclude that the antibiotics themselves are primarily to blame. The staph bacteria can originate from other sources, after all, including human beings, so further study on this matter is needed.


Another Los Angeles Times article reveals how the meat industry is currently firing back at these results and attempting to reclaim its public image. The American Meat Institute directly states that the study is actually misleading, saying that the nation’s meat and poultry supply is “among the safest in the world”. The association states that the study utilized a sample size much too small to represent the entirety of the United States.


However you take the results of the study, if you live in the United States, it might be best to adopt some safety suggestions when handling meat products. Chances of infection from staph and other types of bacteria can be greatly reduced by cooking the meat thoroughly and washing all foods and surfaces that come into contact with raw meat, whether or not it is resistant to antibiotics. You might also want to think about utilizing gloves when handling raw meat.


Though people currently seem divided by the results of this study, it at least did the people of the United States a service by showing just how contaminated their meat could be. It is true that the sample size might be too small to represent the entire country, a surprising percentage of the meat in the States could still cause harm to the general public. And, if the United States meat and poultry truly are some of the safest in the world, then what does that say about other countries? In the end, whether or not you believe in the study, it might still be best to handle raw meat carefully and properly at all times. You can never be too safe and too healthy, after all.




Noel Blanco

Hello, I'm Noel Blanco and I write Fitness Philippines. I have been involved in physical fitness for more than 10 years now and am currently taking up graduate studies on Exercise and Sports Science at the University of the Philippines.

One thought on “U.S. meat is largely contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria?

  • April 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Great post!

    I think you’re right, even if the evidence and sample size are shaky, this study does a great job of reminding Americans that they have the right to question where their food comes from and should exercise that right.

    The truth of the meat industry in our country certainly isn’t pretty, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be turned around.


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