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Say “Good-bye” to steak tartare!

In a new study, researchers say they found drug-resistant bacteria in 40% of meat samples at supermarkets in Spain. Namely, they found E. coli bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The team presented their findings at Denmark’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

E.coli causes severe illness, often including severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. In addition, some people may have a fever, which usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5 to 7 days. 

The findings are amplifying concerns about foodborne illness and the overuse of antibiotic drugs.

Tyler Williams, the chief technical officer of ASI Food Safety, one of North America’s largest food safety service providers, said, “Most consumers assume that everything they buy from a grocery store is guaranteed to be safe, but this is far from the truth.”

The research team out of the University of Santiago de Compostela-Lugo in Lugo, Spain, tested 100 meat products, including chicken, turkey, beef, and pork which were selected randomly from supermarkets in Oviedo, Spain. 

They found that although 73% of the supermarket meat contained levels of E. coli that are considered safe for consumption, half of the samples contained multidrug-resistant and/or potentially pathogenic E. coli, which produced enzymes resistant to most beta-lactam antibiotics, including penicillins, cephalosporins, and the monobactam aztreonam.

About 27% of samples contained pathogenic extraintestinal E. coli (ExPEC), which can cause dangerous infections outside the intestinal tract. They also found drug-resistant E. coli in 68% of turkey, 56% of chicken, 16% of beef, and 12% of pork samples.

It’s a huge concern.

Every year, infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria kill an estimated 700,000 worldwide. And if current trends continue, that number is projected to reach 10 million by 2050.

The study authors appealed to governments to regularly assess levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat products and limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals.

“As we continue to rely on antibiotics to ensure that animals maintain acceptable health, we’re continuing to expose microbiological communities in the environment to residual antibiotics,” Dr. Bryan Quoc Le, the author of “150 Food Science Questions Answered. remarked”

“While not all varieties of E. coli are pathogenic, bacteria are capable of transferring resistance across subspecies, and we are just going to keep seeing more antibiotic-resistant food pathogens over time,” he added.

“The challenge is that our food system has a lot of momentum in doing things the same way as before,” said Le. “There isn’t a lot of innovation, so until the problem becomes unacceptable to the public and political spheres, the food and agricultural industry will continue to apply these low-cost antibiotic approaches to dealing with animal diseases, despite the long-term risks. And unfortunately, we as consumers will be burdened with the consequences of these resistant microorganisms.”

If this problem is bad and getting worse, what can we do to protect ourselves? That’s easy:

Cook your food to safe minimum temperatures!

Additionally, be sure to:

  • Don’t break the cold chain from the supermarket to home.
  • Store food properly in the refrigerator. 
  • Disinfect knives, chopping boards, and other cooking utensils used to prepare raw meat appropriately to avoid cross-contamination (going from uncooked meat to veggies, for instance).

But what happens if we eat meat with multi-drug-resistant bacteria in it?

If you’ve cooked it properly, NOTHING. The minimum temperatures are based on what’s required to kill bacteria. If you’re not certain about your cooking times (or just want to be sure), buy an instant-read meat thermometer. They’re cheap AND make sure your dinner isn’t undercooked!