Before you bite into that piece of chicken, hamburger, or pork chop, you should think twice.  You may be getting more than you paid for…Drug Resistant Microbes…

On February 5 of this year, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) quietly issued its most recent “Retail Meat Report” (reporting period: 2011).  The report is alarming as it documents the presence and continuing spread of drug resistant and multi-drug resistant bacteria present in the meat cases of grocery stores all over the country.  Just so you don’t miss it: we’re not talking here about the mere presence of bacteria, per se; we’re talking about drug-resistant and multi-drug resistant bacteria, some of which showed resistance to at least three and as many as six different classes of antibiotics (see below).

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System is a national public health surveillance system that tracks antibiotic resistance in food-borne bacteria. The NARMS program was established in 1996 as a partnership between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The primary purpose of the NARMS Retail Meat Surveillance program is to monitor the prevalence and trends of antimicrobial resistance among food-borne isolates of Salmonella, Campylobacter, Enterococcus and Escherichia coli (see A Rogues Gallery on this site for more information on these specific pathogens).

In addition to the partnership between the FDA, CDC and USDA, the NARMS Retail Meat Surveillance is an ongoing collaboration between these agencies and State public health laboratories in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.  From January to December, each site purchased approximately 40 food samples per month (10 samples each from chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, and pork chops) from local area grocery stores.

In sum, antibiotic-resistant bacteria were found in 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, 39 percent of chicken, and 81 percent of raw ground turkey samples tested.

More specifically, here are some of the results researchers found:

  • 53% of raw chicken samples were tainted with an antibiotic-resistant form of Escherichia coli (E. coli), a microbe which is often found in feces.
  • Salmonella was found on 9% of raw chicken samples and 10% of raw, ground turkey samples.  And of the Salmonella which researchers found on the chicken samples, 74% was drug-resistant (compared to less than 50% in NARM’s 2002 Retail Meat study).
  • Antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter jejuni was found on 26% of the raw chicken pieces.

So, what are we to make of this?  First, and only for now, the widespread use of antibiotics in the meat industry no doubt keeps a damper on the non-resistant strains of Salmonella, Campylobacter, Enterococcus and Escherichia coli.  And, of those strains which did in fact show drug and multi-drug resistance, many of them are still not able to resist a few of the first-line antibiotics which are normally used on human beings who have become infected with these bugs.

But this is little consolation in the long run.  The problem is that, in the face of an inordinately high usage of various antibiotics throughout commercial agriculture, we are seeing the steady emergence of multi-drug resistant organisms.  This, of course, is to be expected (for a more complete explanation, be sure to see the section, “How Did This Happen?” in the Bio/Tech News Special Report, “Superbugs: The Coming Deadly Global Pandemic”). And, because this is the case, it’s only a matter of time before various strains will develop resistance to the antibiotics we have relied upon for human treatment.  In fact, this is already starting to happen.

For example, the NARMS Report we reference here indicated that 58.4% of the Salmonella bacteria found on ground turkey and 40.5% found on chicken were resistant to ampicillin.  Ampicillin is regularly used to treat humans for illnesses such as ear infections, bladder infections, pneumonia, gonorrhea, and E. coli or Salmonella infection.  There was also some resistance noted for the antibiotic classes, quinolones and cephalosporins and the antibiotics, penicillin and gentamicin.

So long as present agricultural practices continue and are not seriously curtailed, we have the potential of having to face a serious public health crisis sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Still Want to Eat Meat?  Then consider doing the following:

  • Treat every piece of meat as though it is carrying potentially harmful bacteria that can make you or a loved one very, very sick.
  • Ground meats (hamburger, ground turkey, sausage, etc.) have the potential of having micro-organisms distributed throughout compared with the various cuts of meat (steaks, loins, roasts, chops, etc.), which face possible contamination primarily on the exposed surface areas.  Therefore, it’s safest to cook the ground meats thoroughly and sear the surfaces of the cuts of meats as part of the cooking routine.
  • Try to buy your meats from local area farmers who use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
  • The label copy on packaged meats can be very misleading these days.  Don’t trust it.
  • Put your packaged meat in a separate plastic bag immediately upon taking it from the meat case in order to keep it isolated from other foods in your shopping cart.  Do not let your children handle packaged meats.  When you get home, leave the plastic bag on your meat for refrigerator storage.
  • When you take the meat out of the fridge make sure to dispose of the plastic bag and then clean the original meat package using a paper towel sprayed with Thieves Formula anti-microbial spray and/or a water and bleach solution.
  • Avoid cross contamination: Do not use the same food prep surface (counter top, cutting board, etc.) for meats, vegetables, salads, etc.  When finished, wipe hard surfaces down with Thieves Formula cleaning solution and/or a combination of soap, water and bleach.
  • What about eating out when you have no control over sanitation and food prep and cooking?  When in doubt, chase your meal with a good, all-natural, anti-microbial supplement like the Thieves Formula “Inner Defense”.  We like our meat prepared medium rare, so taking a capsule or two of “Inner Defense” after eating provides extra “insurance”.  Same goes with eating sushi.  Chase it with “Inner Defense”, for additional safety.

(NOTE: For information/recommendations where to obtain Thieves Formula products and Thieves “Inner Defense” at the best prices, send us an email with “Thieves” in the Subject Line)