A recent study by the University of Iowa College of Public Health finds retail pork products in the United States have a higher prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA) than previously identified.
MRSA occurs in the environment and in raw meat products, and causes an estimated 185,000 cases of food poisoning each year. The bacteria can cause serious, life-threatening infections of the bloodstream, skin, lungs and other organs and is resistant to a number of antibiotics.
The study, published in the online science journal PLoS ONE, represents the largest sampling of raw meat products for MRSA contamination to date in the United States. The researchers collected 395 raw pork samples from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey. About 7 percent were contaminated with MRSA.
“This study shows that the meat we buy in our grocery stores has a higher prevalence of staph than we originally thought,” says lead study author Tara Smith, Ph.D. “With this knowledge, we can start to recommend safer ways to handle raw meat products to make it safer for the consumer.”
The researchers say the deadly bacteria likely contaminates the meat in processing plants and found no difference between conventional pork products and those raised without antibiotics or drugs and hormones that promote growth.