When you buy raw meat at the grocery store, what you bring home is more often than dinner.
"The chance of buying a contaminated product with drug-resistant bacteria is very high," says Dr. Lance Price, who is the founder of the Center for Antibiotic Resistance at the University of Washington, a leading research laboratory at the Milken School of Public Health.
"We are raising 9 billion animals to slaughter and make meat," Price said. "When we give them low doses of antibiotics on a routine basis, we are only fueling the growth of bacteria, bacteria resistant to drugs, which can spread among these animals and then they are distributed to every grocery store in the country."
It is estimated that 70 percent of the antibiotics used in America are given to farm animals that end up on your dinner plate.
"Animal manufacturers need to be careful about how they use antibiotics," Price said. We can not just use them to prevent infections that they cause by raising animals in a way that makes them nauseous. We must raise animals in a way that encourages their health and then we do not need to use antibiotics. "
Just last month, beef and chicken contaminated with salmonella-resistant antibiotics was discovered in 36 countries. Millions of pounds of meat were remembered and hundreds of people fell ill.
So, we wondered how easy it would be to find bacteria resistant to antibiotics if we did our random sampling.
It turns out, very easy.
We bought two dozen samples of birds from four major national retailers, ranging from chicken and chicken to turkey, turkey hamburgers and drums.
One afternoon we bought, labeled, and packed each package on the ice and put our lab to Dr. Price.
The test was done in two stages.
First, Dr. Price's laboratory identified the four most common bacteria that cause food disease: E coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Campylobacter.
They then determine whether the bacteria were resistant to antibiotics.
Two weeks later, the results were: 88 percent of our samples were treated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And not just one type.
Combinations of E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus were resistant to antibiotics anywhere between 2 and 17 times per sample. Drugs considered to be some of the most important on the planet, such as Amoxicillin, Cipro, and Tetracycline, were often made useless.
"Ninety percent, in fact, of the samples you gave us were positive for E. coli," Price said. "We probably have faeces of animals in all this flesh, but it also causes important diseases and when we look at what coli was resistant, Which was the most resistant, or most resistant to, was tetracycline, and it is also the drug we use most often for animal production in the United States.
Tetracycline is considered by the World Health Organization to be one of the most important antibiotics on the planet. This, and many other drugs classified as "critical" to human health has failed in most of our tests against the bacteria we found on the grocery store.
And the laboratory was more than we expected.
"In the three samples of the turkey we found Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA resistant to Methicillin, which means it was a little shocking," Price said. "When they pass our skin they can infect our blood, they can infect our heart and kill us. At some point, probably still today, MRSA kills more people than HIV in the United States.
The price says that the problem with bacteria resistant to antibiotics is that it exists everywhere in the production of conventional meat, which makes the types of meat, brands and stores irrelevant.
And the government is well aware of the problem.
Every year USDA tests thousands of pieces of grocery store for antibiotic-resistant bacteria using a national antimicrobial monitoring system, or NARMS. The data are largely ignored by the public.
"Resistance is real, resistance is here, it's snowing, we see it, killing 23,000 Americans every year," Don Vandorga told us.
Undurraga analyzed more than 47,000 government laboratory tests of bacteria on supermarket meat for the Environmental Working Group. These data were used to identify trends and effects on public health.
The latest report shows that 75 percent of the bacteria found on the grocery store is resistant to antibiotics, including 73 percent of salmonella on turkey.In the pork ribs tested in the government, 71% were positive for bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Primary cooking meat will kill the bacteria. But the price says the bacteria usually spread beyond the meat itself-from the grocery cart in the store, all the way to the kitchen.
"Then you open a package of chicken," Price said. "You have a dirty package to take care of, right, so you open the garbage can, you're dirty, you're going to wash your hands, turn on the tap, you just pollute the tap, Pump the soap, contaminate it, you're going to wash your hands really well, you close the faucet, re-polluted your hands and salad, so how easy it is to spread these bacteria to the kitchen. "
There is no dispute that antibiotic resistance is complicated. The price says in four times more antibiotics are given to farm animals than humans, and overprescribing the doctor's office contributes to the problem.
The drugs, some of which no longer work, are all medicines and medicine relies on stopping infections that can be treated before they become critical or even fatal.
"If we do not do something, we can go into a post-antibiotic era where things like a scratched knee or pneumonia could kill more people," he said.
There is very little regulation in conventional animal farming to prevent industry from overuse of antibiotics, leaving it to individual companies to make critical decisions about public health. The price says that the Obama administration has made significant progress on the issue – effectively banning the provision of antibiotics solely to make the animals grow faster, but the industry found work around.
"Antibiotics saving our lives, for years, for decades, have been used only to make animals grow faster," said Price. "But there is still a big loophole that allows animal feed to provide antibiotics for disease prevention, and this is a big enough breach for 34 million pounds [of antibiotics to] pass. Then, they breed animals in a way that causes them to get ill and then they justify the antibiotics. "
"We're sending a message to the world that says it's all right," Price said. "And it'll bite us again."
Statement of the National Council Chicken:
"More than half of the chicken meat produced in the United States is now produced without the use of antibiotics, according to FDA guidelines, antibiotics are administered only for the treatment and prevention of animal diseases, only under the prescription of a licensed veterinarian, if antibiotics are used on the farm, federal rules require the antibiotics to be cleaned The systems of animals before they can be slaughtered. For approved antibiotics, the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have extensive monitoring and testing programs to make sure that the grocery food does not contain antibiotic residues.
According to the FDA's latest report, Salmonella and Campylobacter prevalence of chicken meat retail samples continue to decline, and both are at their lowest levels since NARMS began testing.
"Although we have collectively made tremendous progress in reducing pathogens, the fact is that raw poultry is not sterile, and any raw agricultural product, whether fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat or poultry, is sensitive to natural bacteria that can make someone ill if treated incorrectly or cooked.
"We all have an important role in ensuring food safety for our families, and there are steps people can take at home to significantly reduce risk, since raw chicken, it means washing hands before and after contact, 39; and chicken cooking to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. Although bacteria may be resistant to some antibiotics, it does not withstand the right heat from the oven or grill.
Statement by the Director of the Department of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Katyrus Mack, Ph.D., MPH at the North American Meat Institute:
"It is a fundamental fact of nature that raw agricultural products like poultry contain bacteria and it is our job to reduce these bacteria to the lowest possible levels." US Department of Agriculture data show that our efforts to reduce bacteria are working, and disease control centers show that human disease diseases are found They are also on the decline.
Just like humans, animals sometimes need antibiotics and are given under veterinary supervision to ensure they are used properly. When antibiotics are given, there are strict retreats before the birds are processed for food. Used correctly by veterinarians and experts, antibiotics are very effective at destroying bacteria and ensuring animal health. But sometimes, some bacteria survive and become resistant to antibiotics. The good news is that resistance to one antibiotic does not mean bacteria resistant to any antibiotics.
Meat and poultry Scientists are always working to develop the best possible strategies to target and destroy bacteria that can cause disease while maintaining the effectiveness of antibiotics. While there is no acceptable foodborne illness, the fact is that Americans eat billions of servings of chicken every year and more than 99.99 percent of these portions are consumed safely. The public should follow good safety and cooking practices and know that poultry companies are committed to providing the public with safe products as much as we can produce them. "