The 2011 Retail Meat Report released by the FDA in February this year indicated that 87% of meats tested had Enterococci bacteria on them. While Enterococci can cause infections in humans that ingest them, the infections are not often serious. However, Enterococci most likely got onto the meat through fecal matter.
Poop in the food is also how e. coli – a potentially deadly bacteria – causes foodborne illness. How does fecal matter get onto a prime rib? Modern “efficient” food systems move fast and there’s a lot of pressure on the workers to move faster. Employees don’t always have time to properly clean a carcass or the surfaces and tools they use. They should, and there are regulations to that effect, but when a person’s job depends on moving the maximum amount of product in a given amount of time, oversights can happen. With the rise in antibiotic resistance in bacteria, any accidental contamination becomes that much more dangerous.
Avoiding meat that has been raised with unnecessary antibiotics isn’t impossible, but it does take a little effort.
Check the label – USDA Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership on the label indicates antibiotics were either never used or were only used in case of illness. The words “antibiotic free” are meaningless. All animals raised for human consumption must stop ingesting drugs for a short amount of time before slaughter. Once that short amount of time is up, they are considered antibiotic free, even if they spent their entire lives with antibiotics coursing through their veins.
Buy from farmers who raise their animals responsibly – EWG has online resources to help find farmers who rely on good sanitation and low stress environments to keep their animals healthy. You can also ask how the meat was cared for at a farmers market or even at a grocery store.
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