ATLANTA - A new report estimates that half the meat and poultry sold in the supermarket may be tainted with the staph germ.
That estimate is based on 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased from grocery stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Flagstaff, Ariz. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"Staph is probably already on the meat," said University of Washington food safety expert Charles Easterberg. "The question is how do we make it so it's not drug resistant?"
Easterberg believes what we're feeding the livestock is feeding the problem. By injecting the animals with growth hormones and giving them continued doses of antibiotics, they've developed a drug resistant strain of Staph.
Researchers found more than half contained Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can make people sick. Worse, half of those contaminated samples had a form of the bacteria resistant to at least three kinds of antibiotics.
"Our bodies can have a hard time defeating them, especially if no drugs are working," said Easterberg.
Proper cooking should kill the germs. But the report suggests that consumers should be careful to wash their hands and take other steps not to spread bacteria during food preparation.
The nonprofit Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona did the work.