U.S. Pork Contaminated with Growth Drug and Resistant Bacteria
The research tested 240 samples of pork commercially available in retail stores with popular brand names. The researchers found that about 20% of the samples tested positive for the drug Ractopamine. Ractopamine is an adrenal beta agonist used to increase muscle growth and reduce fat deposits in animals. Hog farmers use it to increase the size of the animal without increasing its fat content.
The problem is that this drug can be toxic and cause severe side effects in humans, and there have been numerous cases of food poisoning related to eating meats with Ractopamine contamination. The toxic nature of the drug resulted in the complete ban on Ractopamine use in livestock in Europe. It was also banned for use among horses and dogs – used to increase their performance.
For this concern there are commercial ELISA test kits available that test for levels of Ractopamine. In the U.S., up to 80% of commercial pigs in the U.S. are administered Ractopamine. The European Food Safety Authority determined that they could not establish a safe level of Ractopamine in food. A study found Ractopamine causes restlessness, anxiety, racing heart rate and other side effects in humans who ate meat contaminated with Ractopamine.
The Consumer Reports study also found that nearly 70% of the pork samples were infected with the pathogenic bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica. In addition, 11% contained enterococcus and 3-7% contained salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, or Listeria monocytogenes.
In humans, these bacteria can cause a host of sometimes-lethal infections of the digestive tract, urinary tract, respiratory tract and other regions.
In addition, many of the bacteria found among the pork samples were antibiotic-resistant. This means a human infection will be stronger and may not be treatable with the most-used antibiotics.
Pig factory farms will often administer low doses of antibiotics to their animals on a daily basis. This is done to promote growth as well as delay infection. The result, especially in cramped pens, is the growth of bacteria that has mutated to resist those antibiotics.
The researchers found that ground pork was even more infected with these pathogenic bacteria.
In another recent study, this one from Taiwan’s National Taiwan University, researchers found that pork was a significant source for human infection of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The researchers tested 1,783 people, and over 9% tested positive for Toxoplasma antibodies – showing a past or present infection.
The researchers found that those who ate pork were nearly three times more likely to have been infected by Toxoplasma – a condition called toxoplasmosis.
Learn about fighting bacteria with bacteria.
What’s in that Pork? Consumer Reports magazine, January 2013. Posted on consumerreports.org.
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Chiang TY, Hsieh HH, Kuo MC, Chiu KT, Lin WC, Fan CK, Fang CT, Ji DD. Seroepidemiology of Toxoplasma gondii Infection among Healthy Blood Donors in Taiwan. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e48139.