A dangerous antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria has been found in pork sold at two major British supermarket chains, the Guardian reported Monday.
A type of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) that is prevalent in livestock was found in three samples out of 97 tested from Sainsbury’s and Asda.
MRSA CC398 found in pigs is not particularly deadly to humans, but can cause chronic infections and serious health complications in people with compromised immune systems. It has been known to cause death on rare occasions.
Ingestion of infected meat can transfer the disease from pigs to humans. Though cooking the bacteria kills it, imperfect hygiene can also lead to infection, particularly in meat industry workers, who can then pass it on to other humans.
The Guardian noted that there is no proper screening process for MRSA CC398 in imported pigs. Countries such as Denmark are suffering from major spread of the disease in farms, and the UK could potentially face growing cases of the disease as well.
“If we don’t have tight infection control and we don’t try to control the movement of live animals, infection can spread,” Prof. Tim Lang from the Center for Food Policy at City University in London said. “The British are up in arms about the movement of people, but the EU also has a large movement of animals. We need biosecurity, we need to tighten up this livestock movement. You may get cheap meat, but in the long term it’s going to add to your public health problems.”
The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. Overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat.
Staph germs are commonly found on the skin and in the noses of up to 25 percent of healthy people. The bacteria can be spread in many settings, including in the packing plant or in the kitchen, and it can cause food poisoning.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that staph accounts for roughly 240,000 cases a year. Hand washing and proper cooking are the best ways to avoid problems.
AP contributed to this report.