Pork, source of ‘bad’ bacteria: studies

New studies on food safety have found pork may contain even more dangerous germs than poultry. The findings were presented at the 2001 Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago. A team of researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested nearly 600 packages of ground pork purchased from different grocery stores in five states. They found high levels of Enterococci bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning that is resistant to antibiotic drugs.

Scientists say patients who have antibiotic-resistant enterococcal infections have a death rate of 37 per cent. Enterococci were found on three per cent of ground pork.

“With pork chops or steaks, you’ve got bacteria contamination on the outside,” says lead researcher Jennifer McClennan. And with ground meats, the bacteria are found throughout, making them more dangerous.

“You’ve got to make sure to cook (pork) thoroughly.”

As a result, McClennan says cooks should follow stringent practices when they prepare pork and anything cooked less than medium is probably not a good idea. Another study presented at the symposium raised further concerns about pork.

Dutch researchers found the Enterococci bacteria in pigs cause more trouble for humans than the same type of bacteria found in poultry. The researchers recommended farmers use antibiotics sparingly on their animals. About half of the antibiotics given to animals worldwide are used so they can grow bigger and remain disease-free.

The continuous exposure to antibiotics can also alter the balance of good to bad germs, promoting the antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria in the animal. Resistant strains can be passed on to humans when they consume the meat of the animal. Researchers found these bacteria in pork seemed to survive and thrive longer in humans than those found in poultry.


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