Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of American supermarkets. These so-called superbugs can trigger food-borne illness and infections that are hard to treat.
An analysis by the Environmental Working Group has determined that government tests of raw supermarket meat published last February 5 detected antibiotic-resistant bacteria in:
These little-noticed tests, the most recent in a series conducted by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a joint project of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that supermarket meat samples collected in 2011 harbored significant amounts of the superbug versions of salmonella and Campylobacter, which together cause 3.6 million cases of food poisoning a year.
Moreover, the researchers found that some 53 percent of raw chicken samples collected in 2011 were tainted with an antibiotic-resistant form of Escherichia coli, or E. coli, a microbe that normally inhabits feces. Certain strains of E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. The extent of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on chicken is alarming because bacteria readily share antibiotic-resistance genes.
Not surprisingly, superbugs spawned by antibiotic misuse — and now pervasive in the meat Americans buy — have become a direct source of food-borne illness. Even more ominously, antibiotic misuse threatens to make important antibiotics ineffective in treating human disease. In the past, people who became ill because of contact with harmful microbes on raw meat usually recovered quickly when treated with antibiotics. But today, the chances are increasing that a person can suffer serious illness, complications or death because of a bacterial infection that doctors must struggle to control.
The proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses special dangers to young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. . .
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