Federal data show that U.S. meat & poultry is safe

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A new Pew Charitable Trust-funded study misleads consumers about U.S. meat and poultry, according to American Meat Institute. Authors of the new study, which involved a small number of samples from retail stores, claim that their findings suggest that a significant public health risk exists.

However, federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show steady declines in foodborne illnesses linked to consumption of meat and poultry overall and indicate that human infections with Staphylococcus aureus ( “Staph”) comprise less than one percent of total foodborne illnesses.

It is notable that the study involved only 136 samples of meat and poultry from 80 brands in 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities. This small sample is insufficient to reach the sweeping conclusions conveyed in a press release about the study. By contrast, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture studies the prevalence of bacteria, their work involves thousands of samples collected over long periods of time to ensure accuracy.

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. As with any raw agricultural product, it is important to follow federal safe handling recommendations included on every meat and poultry package that urge consumers to wash hands and surfaces when handling raw meat and poultry and to separate raw from cooked foods to ensure that food is safe when served.
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