November 3, 2008
US store-bought pork found to contain MRSA
A ground-breaking investigation by the KOMO Problem Solvers has found toxic, life-threatening Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) bacteria in pork sold at grocery stores.
This drug-resistant bacteria is already responsible for more deaths in the US than AIDS. What makes MRSA so potentially dangerous is the bacteria can cause sickness just by touching it.
Despite of the risk, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has resisted testing those pork bought from the stores for the aggressive bacteria. Therefore, in partnership with its sisters stations across the region, KOMO and the Problem Solvers decided to conduct the test themselves.
There have been sayings that as long as the meat is cooked thoroughly, everything will be fine, but this does not apply to MRSA.
MRSA is a very different kind of bacteria, said Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, a biologist with Keep Antibiotics Working.
The scientists followed standard testing protocols and found MRSA in three different samples and all were ground pork. The positive samples were from purchases made in Oregon, California and Idaho, three of the four states tested.
Like most other bacteria, MRSA will die if it is thoroughly cooked. Unlike E. coli or salmonella, MRSA causes skin infections, so just touching raw pork that is infected with the bacteria can be a problem, according to both Samadpour and Goldburg.
Therefore, that raises the possibility and simply handling meat could potentially result in a nasty infection.
Canada and several European countries already test pork in grocery stores for MRSA. The USDA was contacted and they said they had no plans for any testing.
The National Pork Board just began testing pork in retail markets. Their study would not be done till six months later but their preliminary results are similar, about a three percent positive rate for MRSA. The Pork Board said MRSA is a priority, but not sure if it is a risk to the public.
The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were also contacted. The FDA says they have started a small pilot study of raw meat in Washington, D.C., but do not have any results yet and do not know when the study will be finished.
Everyone spoken with stresses that while this information is important, it should not cause anyone to panic or fear of purchasing pork.
Making sure safe food-handling practices are used is of importance, and to also alert the public that raw pork should not be handled when hands have cuts or abrasions.