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MRSA in Our Food

Posted by Peadar Rice at

A recent investigation by The Guardian has revealed the presence of a strain of the potentially lethal antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA in pork products sold in leading British supermarkets. Of 100 items, tested including pork chops, bacon and gammon, nine were found to contain the bug.

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium responsible for several difficult to treat infections in humans. MRSA is especially troublesome in hospitals, prisons and nursing homes where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of nosocomial infection than the general public. *1

How Does MRSA Spread?

When bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, some of them can survive. The surviving bacteria are able to mutate and may develop a resistance to the antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance means that, the antibiotics no longer works on that bacteria and no longer kills it. This means that the bacteria is stronger, can multiply and be ready to infect someone else. *2

How Can MRSA Infect Our Food?

Through the overuse of antibiotics, what were once medical miracles are now being rendered useless against disease and infection. More and more doctors are reluctant to administer antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. While this is a very welcome development, it may be too late. 

Since 2006, the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter in animals has been banned by the EU. However, modern, intensive farming methods demands increased administration of antibiotics. 

In order to please retail multiples, keep prices down and to reduce production costs animals are packed on top of each other in factory style sheds. In such inhumane, unsanitary and confined environments diseases and infections are easily spread, meaning that feed is routinely laced with antibiotics.

There is a solution, organic farming. If animals are allowed to graze outside, exposing them to natural elements and kept in small herds, their health is improved and the need for preventative medicine is removed. In organic farming livestock are administered antibiotics only when they show signs of sickness. In intensive farming animals are systemically fed antibiotics, even when they are not sick, in order to fight against the inevitable spread of disease and infections.

 

Sources:

*1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methicillin-resistant_Staphylococcus_aureus

2* http://www.hse.ie/portal/eng/health/az/M/MRSA-infection/

 3* cartoon courtesy of https://survivingthemiddleclasscrash.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/got-antibiotics-in-your-food-thank-the-fda/


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