(NaturalNews) The next time you reach for the bacon, ham, pork chops or pork steaks, you may want to rethink your dining choice: A majority of samples of "the other white meat" that were obtained in a recent study contained bacteria, potentially deadly drugs or a combination of both.
According to Consumer Reports, samples of U.S. pork chops and ground pork were found to contain substantial amounts of harmful, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, along with low levels of a type of growth hormone used on pigs.
"Our analysis of pork-chop and ground-pork samples from around the U.S. found that yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium that can cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, was widespread. Some samples harbored other potentially harmful bacteria, including salmonella," the magazine said in a recent report.
No drugs should be used on healthy animals to promote growth
Of 198 samples, some of the bacteria found by the CR investigation were resistant to antibiotics that are commonly used to treat humans. That's likely due to the "frequent use of low-dose antibiotics in pork farming" which "may be accelerating the growth of drug-resistant 'superbugs' that threaten human health," said the magazine.
In all, researchers from the magazine tested 240 pork products; of them, 20 percent, or one-fifth, "harbored low levels of the drug ractopamine," which U.S. food and drug officials approved in 1999 to promote leanness and growth in pigs.
Commonly used in the U.S., the drug is banned in the European Union, China and Taiwan.
"Our food-safety experts say that no drugs should be used routinely in healthy animals to promote growth," Consumer Reports said.
Some of CR's more significant findings include:
-- Yersinia enterocolitica was found in an astounding 69 percent of the tested pork samples, a bacterium that affects some 100,000 Americans annually, especially children. In addition, researchers found salmonella staphylococcus aureus, or listeria monocytogenes, "more common causes of foodborne illness, in three to seven percent of samples." Additionally, 11 percent contained enterococcus, which is a potential indicator of fecal contamination and can cause intestinal and urinary tract problems.
-- In some cases, the bacteria found were resistant to multiple drugs or entire classes of drugs. "That's worrisome," CR reported, "because if those bugs make you sick, your doctor may need to prescribe more powerful (and expensive) antibiotics." Regular readers of Natural News know that we've been tracking this antibiotic-resistance very carefully, because of its grave implications for public health.
-- Ground pork was found to be more likely than pork chops to contain pathogens but, say researchers, that's not unexpected considering that the process of grinding meat provides an additional opportunity for contamination.
Dirty conditions can allow bacteria to proliferate, which is often the case when large-scale production facilities confine animals in close quarters.
Repeated low doses of antibiotics causing 'mutagenesis'
"An animal's muscles (meat), blood, and brain are normally sterile. But during slaughter and processing, meat can become contaminated with bacteria from the animal's skin or gut and from workers, equipment, or the environment," Consumer Reports said. "Contamination is especially likely to occur if processing lines run too fast or if sanitary practices aren't followed. Once bacteria are on meat, improper storage can encourage them to multiply."
Experts note that giving pigs drugs is equally harmful.
"When you give low-dose antibiotics for growth promotion or for prophylaxis of infection, you end up killing off the susceptible bacteria, whether they're E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter, or other bacteria," Robert S. Lawrence, M.D., director of the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told CR. "And you continue to select for those bacteria that, through spontaneous mutations or transfer of genes from other resistant bacteria, allow them to be resistant to antibiotics."
He pointed to recent lab research by Boston University that indicated repeated low doses of antibiotics can cause enough stress in bacteria to increase the rate of spontaneous mutations, eventually rendering the bugs drug-resistant - a process known as mutagenesis.