Dangerous Dinner: MRSA Hidden in Your Meat
Even with the growing trend of vegetarianism and veganism these days, some of us still enjoy a bit of meat now and again! And there’s nothing wrong with that . . . Now, I’m not saying we adhere to the ways of the Paleos, but a steak once in a while, or a piece of pork tenderloin (the other white meat!) can do no harm – Right?
Well, almost no harm. If you happened to have gotten sick one of the last times you enjoyed some meat in your dinner, you are not the only one. Researchers have found raw meat products in the United States carry a dangerous bacterium much more often than previous believed.
The culprit? Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
Details of the Study
The research, which was conducted by the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and was published in the online journal PLoS ONE, was the largest sampling of raw meat products in America for MRSA contamination. Over 395 raw pork samples were collected from Minnesota, New Jersey and Iowa. From these samples, the scientists discovered that 26 samples carried MRSA, or roughly around seven percent.
There was no difference in MRSA contamination between conventional pork products and those raised without antibiotics or growth promoters, so there really is no way to reduce the risk of developing an infection when shopping for raw meat products at your local grocery. The results have motivated the researchers to find safer ways to handle raw meat products and make the meat safer to eat, with fewer incidents of contamination.
What is MRSA?
MRSA does not occur solely in pork and other raw meat products; it also occurs naturally in the environment. It is estimated to cause around 185,000 cases of food poisoning each year in the United States, and the infections can sometimes become serious. Life-threatening complications can include infections that target the bloodstream, skin and lungs, as well as other organs. One of the biggest problems with MRSA is that it is resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics. Currently, scientists are working to develop a suitable antibiotic to treat MRSA bacterial infections and food poisoning caused by the bacteria.
Where is the Real Threat?
The researchers who conducted the study were surprised by the lack of significant, different results from antibiotic-free pork and conventionally produced pork. The results raised suspicion that perhaps the bacteria prospers at the factories and plants where the raw meat is handled, rather than where or how the animals were raised.
These unanswered questions undoubtedly require more research, and the team hopes to explore further into the matter. While we as consumers await the safer recommended practices and guidelines for proper meat handling, the number of MRSA infections and complications may continue to rise steadily until a proper course of treatment is developed.