Contaminated US Pork

If you’ve recently experienced fever, diarrhea and/or abdominal pain, make a mental note if you’ve recently eaten pork or a pork product.

Our analysis of pork-chop and ground-pork samples from around the U.S. found that yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium that can cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, was widespread. Some samples harbored other potentially harmful bacteria, including salmonella. And there are more reasons to be concerned about “the other white meat.”

Some of the bacteria we found in 198 samples proved to be resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat people. The frequent use of low-dose antibiotics in pork farming may be accelerating the growth of drug-resistant “superbugs” that threaten human health.

The samples also included various levels of drugs used to promote “growth and leanness.” Ground pork evidently carried more pathogens than the non-ground variety.

Samples also included drug resistant staph and salmonella.

An animal’s muscles (meat), blood, and brain are normally sterile. But during slaughter and processing, meat can become contaminated with bacteria from the animal’s skin or gut and from workers, equipment, or the environment. Contamination is especially likely to occur if processing lines run too fast or if sanitary practices aren’t followed. Once bacteria are on meat, improper storage can encourage them to multiply.

Worse yet, some of these buts are “antibiotic created super bugs.”

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to animals raised for food. Often, those drugs aren’t used to treat infections but are fed continuously in low doses to promote growth and prevent infections that can spread in the cramped quarters in which most farm animals live. A single barn from a large hog-production facility can hold 2,000 or more pigs, creating ideal conditions for the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It appears as though the pork industry is also using controversial drugs to make the pigs grow faster.

The U.S. pork industry says ractopamine is safe. “Ractopamine is approved and used in 26 other countries, including some of the Asian countries,” says Dave Warner, director of communications for the National Pork Producers Council, an industry group. “The issues with China and Taiwan have nothing to do with the safety of the product. Countries that have banned pork or meat from animals fed ractopamine are doing it to protect their domestic pork industries. This is not about food safety.”

The European Food Safety Authority, which advises the European Union on food policy, concluded that it couldn’t establish a safe level for ractopamine in food after reviewing the only study of its effect on humans (involving just six men). But it noted that drugs like ractopamine can cause restlessness, anxiety, a fast heart rate, and other conditions. And FDA documents show that it increases the risk of injury and lameness in pigs.

I know. This article is starting to read like a bad, scary, science fiction article. But’s on health.yahoo and written by the editors of Consumer Reports. Pretty conservative writers writing… well this is truly interesting stuff.

Page two of the linked article gives information on how to stay safe. Our recommendations may differ a bit… I say, “Don’t eat pork.”

It’s easy.

Check out the whole article. It’s a fascinating read.

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