Monday, April 18, 2011


The media is doing a good job in alerting us to the risks in food, but you can't take everything in news reports and the absolute truth. Often it's not quite misinformation - just a slight distortion of the facts.

For instance the impression given in many U.S. news reports over the last few days is that Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria recently found in about half of U.S. retail meat) is something new, or at least, new in meat. It is not. In fact, it was discovered back in 1878. Already in 1894 staphylococcus food poisoning (although it was not called that at the time) was linked to eating beef. This role of Staphyloccocus aureus in food poisoning was confirmed in the early 1900's. It's been popping up as the cause of meat (and other food) recalls quite frequently in recent years.

Resistance of Staphylococcus aureus to antibiotics isn't new either. I remember decades back when I was working in a hospital bacteriology lab on nights and weekends (putting myself through graduate school) noticing how many of the Stapylococcus aureus bacteria I isolated from hospital patients were developing more and more resistance to the drugs in use at that time. A major cause was over-prescription of antibiotics by the medical profession. Now industrialized livestock practices are also daily adding to such dangerous resistance among Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria that can make us ill.

This is a serious public health threat.


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