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Business Week reports on a new study from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) suggesting that “meat and poultry sold in the United States is widely contaminated with drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can cause serious illnesses in humans ... The types of health problems linked to S. aureus range from mild skin infections to life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia, sepsis and heart infection.”

According to the story, “In the new nationwide study, researchers analyzed 136 samples of 80 brands of beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased at 26 retail stores in five cities: Chicago; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Los Angeles; and Washington, D.C. The results showed that 47 percent of the samples were contaminated with S. aureus, and that 52 percent of the bacteria were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. DNA testing suggests that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination with S. aureus.”

The researchers said that it still is to be determined what kind of risk this creates for consumers.

Business Week notes that in a statement, the American Meat Institute Foundation said that the study's small sample size is "insufficient" to reach the conclusions put forth by the researchers. And the foundation said that, "while the study claims that the many of the bacteria found were antibiotic resistant, it does note that they are not heat resistant. These bacteria are destroyed through normal cooking procedures, which may account for the small percentage of foodborne illnesses linked to these bacteria."
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