Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Superbugs Found in Nearly 80 Percent of U.S. Supermarket Meat

Health + Wellness
A shopper examines a package of meat in a grocery store for freshness. USDA / CC BY 2.0

The latest round of tests by federal scientists found antibiotic-resistant bacteria on nearly 80 percent of supermarket meat in 2015, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group.

Those bacteria were resistant to at least one of 14 antibiotics tested for by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a federal public health partnership.


"Consumers need to know about potential contamination of the meat they eat, so they can be vigilant about food safety, especially when cooking for children, pregnant women, older adults or the immune-compromised," said Dawn Undurraga, EWG's nutritionist and author of the report.

The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance a serious threat to global health and food security.

Drug-resistant bacteria—sometimes referred to as superbugs—were detected on 79 percent of ground turkey, 71 percent of pork chops, 62 percent of ground beef, and 36 percent of chicken breasts, wings and thighs sampled in supermarkets by NARMS in 2015, the latest year for which data is available.

"Bacteria transfer their antibiotic resistance genes to other bacteria they come in contact with in the environment and in the gastrointestinal tract of people and animals, making it very difficult to effectively treat infections," said Dr. Gail Hansen, a public health consultant and veterinarian.

Despite this serious threat, the federal government still allows meat producers to give antibiotics important for human health to healthy animals. This practice aims to compensate for stressful, crowded or unsanitary conditions on factory farms.

"When one person or group misuses antibiotics, they cause resistance to the antibiotics to spread, hurting everyone in society," said Dr. Brad Spellberg, who is the chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center, and associate dean for clinical affairs at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, but expressed his own opinion. "It's not acceptable for one group of people to profit by hurting everyone else in society."

"By choosing organic meat and meat raised without antibiotics, consumers can help reduce the amount of antibiotics used in farm animals and slow the spread of drug resistance," Undurraga said.

She recommended shoppers follow EWG's tipsheet on how to avoid superbugs in meat. Among other guidance, it tells consumers which food labels accurately identify meat raised without antibiotics.

EWG's new meat and dairy label decoder also helps consumers understand the truth about labels on meat, dairy and eggs, and see through deceptive claims.

In conjunction with the release of its report and label decoder, EWG submitted a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, calling attention to the issue of superbugs in American meat and asking for proactive federal action to curtail the threat.

"The public shouldn't have to wait until 100 percent of the bacteria found on meat are untreatable with antibiotics before the FDA takes strong action," Undurraga said. "Now is the time for the FDA to get medically important antibiotics off factory farms."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Pile River flows into the northern end of Lake Iliamna. The lake and its tributaries are the headwaters of the Bristol Bay region, one of the richest salmon fisheries in the world. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers last week to say that it would not oppose or put a stop to a huge copper and gold mine near the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, as The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A crowd of protestors on May 31, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

The nationwide horror at the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police has triggered protests in 75 cities. People are demonstrating against the systemic racism that has made people of color targets of lethal actions by law enforcement. In response, elected officials and public health experts are walking a fine line of affirming the rights of protestors while simultaneously worrying that the protests will lead to a new wave of coronavirus infections.

Read More Show Less
Increasing your exercise intensity is fairly simple to do. You can still participate in your favorite activities — just at a more vigorous pace. SrdjanPav / Getty Images

By Sara Lindberg

Whether you've hit a workout plateau or you're just ready to turn things up a notch, adding more strenuous exercise — also known as high-intensity exercise — to your overall fitness routine is one way to increase your calorie burn, improve your heart health, and boost your metabolism.

However, to do it safely and effectively, there are some guidelines you should follow. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of vigorous exercise and how to safely dial up the intensity of your workouts.

Read More Show Less
As restoration managers repair damaged corals, sound recordings can help jumpstart the process of restoring vibrant – and noisy – coral reef ecosystems. CC by 2.0

A healthy coral reef is a noisy place.

Read More Show Less
While it's often dismissed as stuff for kids, a lot of grownups secretly savor it. TheCrimsonMonkey / Getty Images

By Jeffrey Miller

In January 2015, food sales at restaurants overtook those at grocery stores for the first time. Most thought this marked a permanent shift in the American meal.

Read More Show Less
A man observes the damages caused to his neighborhood from Tropical Storm Amanda on May 31, 2020 in San Salvador, El Salvador. Guillermo Martínez / APHOTOGRAFIA / Getty Images

At least 14 people were killed when Tropical Storm Amanda walloped El Salvador Sunday, Interior Minister Mario Duran said.

Read More Show Less

Trending

About EcoWatch

A fire in Greenland on July 10. Zombie fires smolder underground for months, notably in dense peatlands, and then flare-up when it grows warmer and drier. NASA

By Mark Kaufman

Some fires won't die.

They survive underground during the winter and then reemerge the following spring, as documented in places like Alaska. They're called "overwintering," "holdover," or "zombie" fires, and they may have now awoken in the Arctic Circle — a fast-warming region that experienced unprecedented fires in 2019. The European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service is now watching these fires, via satellite.

Read More Show Less