A new article in Clinical Infectious Diseases reports on an investigation of staph contamination (Staphylococcus aureus) on CAFO beef, pork, chicken and turkey in grocery stores in 5 US cities. Staph was found on 47% of the meat samples, but what is particularly troubling is that over half of the staph samples were multidrug resistant. It is clear that the CAFO’s are incubating drug resistance, and doing it quickly. (For instance, fluoroquinolone antibiotics were used in in chicken CAFO’s from 1995-2005 and fluoroquinolone-resistant staph were common on the chicken samples — but not on the other meats).
(Multidrug resistant does not necessarily mean methicillin resistant, as in MRSA; this study only found 3 MRSA-contaminated packages out of 136 tested.)
If you are wondering when we are going to stop making meat “cheap” by steadily eroding the power of antibiotics, you could have gotten a partial answer from two other stories in the news at the same time. Both show state governments bending over backwards to protect the interests of the CAFO owners:
- The Missouri legislature just passed a bill that essentially protects Premium Standard Farms, the state’s main operator or hog CAFO’s, from lawsuits
- Iowa, Florida and Minnesota moved to criminalize videos exposing conditions at CAFO’s — no more of those videos that keep us from enjoying our breakfast strips in peace. Update 26 Apr 11: Mark Bittman of the NY Times weighs in on the ag-gag law.