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Infectious Disease

Widespread bacteria and drugs found in US pork samples

Samples of U.S. pork-chop and ground-pork have been found to contain significant amounts of harmful and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, along with low levels of a growth hormone used to promote growth in pigs, an analysis from Consumer Reports revealed.

About 3 percent to 7 percent of the pork samples contained dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella, staphylococcus aureus and listeria monocytogenes, all of which are notorious for causing foodborne illnesses.  Most notably, the report found widespread contamination of the bacterium yersinia enterocolitica.  Known for inducing fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, yersinia enterocolitica was in 69 percent of the tested samples.

In 198 samples, some of the bacteria discovered by the analysis were found to be antibiotic-resistant, which Consumer Reports suggested may be a result of the pork farming industry’s common use of low-dose antibiotics to promote weight gain.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become a recent cause for concern in the past few years, because these harmful “superbugs” cannot be treated by conventional antibiotics.

About one-fifth of the pork products tested also contained low levels of the drug ractopamine, which is often used in pigs raised for food to accelerate their growth and leanness.  While the drug is approved in the U.S., it is banned in the European Union, China and Taiwan.

Overall, the ground pork samples were more likely to contain bacteria than the pork chops.

Click for more from Consumer Reports.