Most of Our Meat has Superbugs on It. KDWN's Dr. Daliah Explains

A study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that most of our meat purchased at the supermarket contains antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System tested bacteria on meat in 2015 and found them to be resistant to one of fourteen antibiotics.  These “superbugs” were detected on:

  • 79% of Ground Turkey
  • 71% Pork Chops
  • 62% Ground Beef
  • 36% Chicken Breasts, Wings and Thighs tested.

Dr. Gail Hansen, a public health expert and veterinarian states, “Bacteria transfer their antibiotic resistance genes to other bacteria they come in contact with in the environment and in the gastrointestinal tract of people and animals, making it very difficult to effectively treat infections.”

The EWG provides a tip sheet on how to avoid superbugs in meat here.

 

What is a Superbug?

A superbug is a pathogen, most commonly bacteria, that can survive antibiotics that most species would buckle under.  It’s resistance could be caused by a variety of factors.  Maybe it has a mutation that makes it stronger.  Maybe its genetic material shields it from the toxic medicine.  Maybe it’s luck.  So shortly after it celebrates surviving the antibiotic assault, it divides to reproduce, making more bacteria.  If this progeny bacteria maintain the same genetic material as its parent, or if included, mutation, they can be now be resistant to the antibiotics as well.

 

According to the CDC: Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.

Why are superbugs growing on our food?

One theory is we give antibiotics to farm animals to keep them healthy, avoid disease and improve their growth.  These antibiotics may be used and consumed so frequently that bacteria learn how to overcome and create new, resilient progeny.

 

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP