Thursday, May 26, 2011


When Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming as an antibiotic drug that can kill many pathogenic microorganisms, probably he would not have bargained for the large scale misuse of such antibiotics by the meat industry to create a food safety crisis of unparalleled dimension that is haunting the consumers to no end. That uncontrolled use of antibiotics in regularly consumed foods can lead to drug resistance eventually is well established by now and due to this undesirable practice by the industry, mankind is running out of effective and efficient drugs to treat microbial originating diseases, many of them life-threatening. A recent report about the implications of this industry practice is quite disturbing.

"It has been found that nearly half of the meat and poultry (47 percent) sold in U.S. grocery stores is contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus ("Staph"), a bacteria linked to a wide range of human diseases, and this bacteria is resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics in more than half (52 percent) of contaminated samples. This comes from a nationwide study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. For the study the team collected and analyzed 136 samples–covering 80 brands–of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C.. DNA testing suggested that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination. The study was funded through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming".

The industry stance that use of antibiotics cut down the risk of food poisoning may be true but using life saving drugs like antibiotics for routine processing cannot be an excuse for their continued use because of the drug resistance phenomenon. What is alarming is that S.aureus, which was found widely in meat and poultry products in the market has its origin in the farm animals, despite the use of antibiotics in their feeds and this could have been possible only because of bad hygienic environment prevalent in the farms. There are well established protocols for maintenance of farms and industry must abide by these standards instead of using liberal doses of life saving antibiotics. Added to this there are reports that antibiotics are often used to accelerate growth of the animals and obtaining higher meat yield which is deplorable. The weak-kneed policies and ineffective implementation of safety protocols by the food safety agency vested with the responsibility are to be blamed for this malady. This is a lesson to be learnt by meat food industries world over when trying to ape the western models of food manufacturing practices.


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