Well, this is disturbing. A new investigation from Consumer Reports finds that all our pork is tainted. Or rather, 148 samples of pork chops and 50 samples of ground pork tested in 6 US cities is tainted with Yersinia enterocolitica. Yersinia what? Yersinia enterocolitica is a food contaminant that sickens about 100,000 Americans a year with symptoms including watery or bloody diarrhea and fever, liver abscesses, spleen abscesses, and other lovely things.
Additionally, people with high blood-iron levels, such as those with hereditary hemochromatosis, are more likely to be infected because Yersinia is a siderophilic (iron-loving) bacteria. I wonder what this means for people on a low carb diet? Probably more exposure to the little buggers…
Oh, and there’s a bit more good news: the strains in the infected pork were antibiotic resistant.
Most troubling is that Consumer Reports says the majority of the bacteria samples it discovered were resistant to at least one of the medically prescribed antibiotics it tested in the lab. That’s probably because many farm animals are routinely fed antibiotics, a practice the industry uses to keep animals healthy but is widely criticized among public health professionals because of the potential for resistant strains of bacteria to arise. (source)
So what’s a conscientious eater to do?
Well, obviously, wash your hands and make sure your meat is thoroughly cooked. Also, think again about food quality: yeah, that 89cents/lb ground pork special at the local ConAgraMart may seem like a deal, but do you know what you’re getting for that? At the end of the day, ethically raised meat products that come from animals who are allowed to move and eat like nature intended, and who are not ingesting huge doses of antibiotics…these may be a much better bargain in the long, and short, run. Maybe it’s time to find a local farmer who raises livestock in a way that you want to support, and that will support your health.
- What’s In That Pork? Consumer Reports, January 2013 (released online prior to print publication)
- Resistant Bacteria in Pork — And Problematic Pharmaceuticals Too, Wired, November 27, 2012.
- Consumer Reports Analysis of US Pork Finds Majority Contaminated, LA Times. November 27, 2012.
- Study Finds Most Pork Contaminated, ABC News/Yahoo. November 27, 2012.
- Yersinia Enterocolitica, Wikipedia
- Local Harvest