„Super bacteria” variants invading European countries

Food

European consumers may have to live life on tenterhooks once again. A new type of „super bacteria” variant was found in some EU countries.

According to a report published on June 25th, by a British organic food advocacy organization, „Soil Association”, a new type of „super bacteria” variant (MRSA) was found in countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and Germany. Moreover, some meats infected with these bacteria were discovered in slaughterhouses in the Netherlands. Nearly half of pig farms were found carrying the bacteria. Given this grim situation, the organization believes that a large number of meat products in British supermarkets, that have been imported from the Netherlands, such as pork, beef and chicken, may have been infected with the „super bacteria” MRSA. Therefore it has urged the British government to quarantine the country's imported meat products.

Bacteria variants blustering in the Netherlands

MRSA is an abbreviation for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aaureus. Since it was first discovered in 1961, MRSA became one of the most highly infectious pathogens within hospitals in the world in late 1980s. In 2005 alone, 3,800 people died from an MRSA infection in Britain. According to the „Soil Association”, MRSA found in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Germany is different from the one found in the United Kingdom. It is a new form of Staphylococcus aureus, known as ST398. It has developed a resistance commonly used antibiotics. ST398 can cause skin infections, as well as infect the heart and bones.

The report said that about 39% of the pigs under inspection, in nine slaughterhouses in the Netherlands last year, tested positive for MRSA while in quarantine. The department responsible for food safety and production in the Netherlands has discovered in further tests that about 20% of pork, 21% of chicken, and 3% of beef products are carrying the bacteria.

The Netherlands is a major exporter of animal products; it exports more than six million pigs annually to neighboring countries. What is of greater concern is that in the Netherlands, almost half of the pig farms were found to be carrying this new type of MRSA. The bacteria-carrying rate is 1500 times of that of the total population of the country. In this major pig-raising region, 80% of infections originated from livestock carrying the bacteria.

Quarantine needed on imported meats

The„Soil Association„ pointed out in its report that about two-thirds of pork consumed in Britain is imported from the Netherlands every year. Therefore, pork, beef and chicken products in British supermarkets may have been infected with this new type of MRSA. The reason why Britain has not detected this new type of MRSA, the report said, is probably because the British authorities do not place under quarantine any imported pork and chicken products. At present, the British Food Standards Agency only inspects beef- the products that with the lowest rate of infection.

To this end, the „Soil Association„ called on the British government to carry out immediate testing of meat products to determine whether or not they carry this new type of MRSA. Member of „Soil Association”, Richard Young, said the new type of MRSA will sooner or later spread throughout the United Kingdom. Since most British farms use antibiotics, this new form of MRSA will do even greater damage because of its resistance to the drug. The British government should perform routine quarantine checks on imported meat and livestock.

Suggestion: Meat should be prepared well-done

Although the „Soil Association” report described the MRSA threat as imminent; a spokesman for the British Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department reiterated that Britain has not discovered any single case of MRSA yet. The department has had a positive attitude towards monitoring MRSA, and has kept in close contact with medical experts. However, the Food Standards Agency also urged consumers to take the same approach to MRSA as they did to Salmonella.

„Using the correct method for cooking meat can eliminate MRSA.” Experts also pointed out that cooking meat well-done can kill bacteria. People may also be infected when handling raw meat. Therefore, people must wash their hands after touching raw meat and before eating, because even a small scratch on the nose may lead to infection. (english.people.com.cn)

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