Resist the Drug-Resistant Staph in Meat the Natural Way Print
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Thursday, April 28, 2011

As if eating meat wasn't already a concern for many health-conscious Americans, a recent study adds fuel to the mounting body of evidence that should convince more people to be very picky about what they eat; especially if it's turkey, chicken, beef or pork.

But if you just can't bring yourself to give up eating meat, I'll give you some tips for how you can make sure that you don't succumb to the effects of the recent study showing a prevalence of staph bacteria in grocery store meats.

Nearly Half of All U.S. Meat and Poultry Widely Contaminated with Staph Bacteria

According to a nationwide study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases by the Flagstaff, Arizona-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Northern Arizona University, meat and poultry products purchased at grocery stores in five U.S. cities were frequently contaminated with strains of drug-resistant staph bacteria that can cause skin infections and other diseases.

In order to measure the average consumer's exposure, researcher bought 136 packages of ground beef, chicken breasts and thighs, pork chops and ground pork, and ground turkey. The samples were purchased from 26 grocery stores in Flagstaff, Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Washington, D.C. under 80 different brand names.

The meat was analyzed for the presence of Staphylococcus aureus (commonly called "S. aureus" or "staph" for short), because staph has been found in the past in several food-animal species. The study found that nearly half (47 percent) of all meat and poultry samples tested contained an unexpectedly high rate of the disease- causing bacteria.

A second round of testing was conducted to determine which strain of staph was on the meat, and then they did a third round, testing the staph against five important classes of antibiotics, to see whether the staph they had found was resistant.

Fifty-Two Percent Contain SuperBugs!

The tests showed that it was very resistant.  The results showed that 52 percent of the contaminated meats contained superbugs, meaning the bacteria were resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics.  The bottom line is that multi-antibiotic resistant Staph bacteria were found in about one out of every 4 samples of meat, chicken or turkey.

The antibiotics to which the staph was resistant included penicillin and ampicillin; erythromycin; tetracycline; oxacillin, the more modern form of the drug methicillin; the drug combination quinupristin/dalfopristin, known as Synercid; the fluoroquinolones levofloxacin (Levaquin) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro); and the last-resort drugs for very serious staph infections vancomycin and daptomycin. One staph bacteria was resistant to nine different antibiotics.

Of the meat samples, the turkey samples contained the highest rate of resistance (77 percent), followed by the pork samples (42 percent), the chicken samples (41 percent), and the beef samples (37 percent).  There goes our argument that turkey is healthier than beef!

It's the Meat, Stupid!

Meat-industry officials say this is not a particularly alarming study and are claiming that there is nothing to worry about.  They say this type of bacteria is common and widespread, even healthy individuals may carry it on the skin or nose.  It can be spread in community settings such as hospitals, fitness centers or among people who live in crowded conditions.  If found on meat, it should be destoyed if the meat is cooked properly, though it is possible to spread meat-borne bacteria through improper handling and sanitation in the kitchen.

Staph infections often cause minor skin infections, but infections can worsen and spread to the bloodstream, urinary tract, lungs or heart, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The truth that meat-industry officials and American meat-eaters alike don't want to face is that conditions in modern industrial farms are inhumane for the animals and jeopardize our human food supply.  Because the animals are packed together with little room to move, they are continuously fed low doses of antibiotics in their food and water and are a breeding ground for drug-resistant bacteria to spread like wildfire.

Lance Price, the TGen scientist who led the study, said "This is the first study to show that antibiotic-resistant staph is highly prevalent in the American food supply."

And while the meat-industry officials claim that staph is common and widespread, Price added, "There's an important second point: We found that each of the meat and poultry types had their own distinctive staph on them. That provides strong evidence that food-animals were the primary source of the resistant staph. The source wasn't human contamination of the meat at slaughter, or when it was packaged for retail sale."

Nature's Antibiotics

So what should you do to make sure that you don't get infected with a source of antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria?  Eat only antibiotic-free meats and poultry, and eat an abundance of natural anti-bacterial foods!

Animals that are raised without antibiotics are not as susceptible, but it is equally important to eat more plant foods that naturally possess potent antibiotic properties. 

According to Sandra Cabot, M.D., antibiotic drugs may not work efficiently against bacterial infections for several reasons, one of which is that the organism may be resistant to antibiotic drugs.  Bacterial infections in unhealthy tissues can continue to release bacteria or other pathogenic micro-organisms into the bloodstream where they flourish, causing such things as abscesses and heart disease.  To kill of the bacteria, we must revitalize the dead and infected tissue and fight the micro-organisms with natural antibiotics.  Interestingly, these infections do not become resistant to the powerful action of these natural antibiotics:

  • Garlic has a long history of use as an infection fighter and has been referred to as "Russian Penicillin" to denote its antibacterial properties.  Chopping or crushing garlic stimululates the enzymatic process that converts the phytochemical alliin into the sulfur-containing compound allicin, which is largely responsible for garlic's ability to fight infections as well as its pungent odor.  Allicin has been shown to be effective not only against common infections, such as colds, flu, stomach viruses, and Candida yeast, but also against powerful pathogenic microbes, including tuberculosis and botulism.
  • Onion is also a natural antibiotic and can reduce catarrh and infected mucus.  Onions are contain a variety of sulfur compounds that provide health benefits.  Like garlic, onions contain alliin which is released when an onion is cut or crushed. Although not nearly as valued a medicinal agent as garlic, onion has been used almost as widely.
  • Coconut Oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that have antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal effects. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil, especially lauric acid, help destroy pathogens by dissolving the lipids and phospholipids in the fatty envelope surrounding them, resulting in disintegration. The only other abundant source of lauric acid is human breast milk.  A good amount of coconut oil is 2 Tablespoons per day, more if needed to fight an infection.
  • Cinnamon and Raw Honey together can produce a well-rounded antibiotic effect.  Cinnamon is a good antifungal and antibacterial agent. The healing properties of cinnamon are from the essential oils found in its bark. Dr. Nizar Haddad, director of the Bee Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer in Jordan, says that honey has been used for over 2,000 years to suppress the growth of bacteria and fungus. It is active against at least 60 strains of bacteria.
  • Watercress has high levels of sulfur, which act as a natural antibiotic cleanser.
  • Horseradish helps helps protect against food-borne illness. The pungent chemical allyl isothiocyanate, formed when horseradish is cut, is the active constituent responsible for its antibacterial effects.