Meat Analysis Finds Drug Resistant Bacteria in Pork

A Consumer Reports analysis found potentially dangerous bacteria in pork samples from around the country.

Time to think twice about eating pork?
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Pork samples from around the United States contained bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses and may be resistant to antibiotic treatment, according to a new analysis by Consumer Reports.

According to the analysis, nearly 70 percent of pork chops and ground pork sampled contained bacteria that cause entero-colitis, which infects about 100,000 Americans each year. They also found salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria in many of the samples.

"Some of the bacteria we found in 198 samples proved to be resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat people," according to the analysis.

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been an emerging worry for public health officials: Earlier this year, the World Health Organization warned that gonorrhea was quickly becoming untreatable, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria was found in 37 states earlier this year.

Experts say that meat that is properly cooked should be safe for consumption, but earlier this year scientists confirmed that a resistant strain of the Staphylococcus aureus that mainly infects farmers developed its resistance from antibiotics used to raise livestock.

At the time, Lance Price, who wrote about Staphylococcus resistance in the journal mBio, said the agricultural industry has to stop using antibiotics as a preventative measure.

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"We have tons of messages out there to tell physicians to stop over prescribing, to tell parents not to ask for antibiotics every time their child has a stuffy nose," Price said. "Meanwhile, we're using 29 million pounds of antibiotics for food production. Those examples couldn't be more polar opposites."

New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, who has been trying to pass legislation that would severely limit when farmers are allowed to give antibiotics to livestock, called the Consumer Reports analysis "terrifying" and said "It's getting harder and harder for the food processing industry and the FDA to ignore the fact that the overuse of antibiotics in animals is threatening public health."

Scott Hurd, a former food safety expert with the USDA, told CBS News that the Consumer Reports analysis "used a small amount of data to frighten people."

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Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jkoebler@usnews.com.