Thursday, January 3, 2013

Consumer Reports: Bugs & Drugs in Pork

Consumer Reports recently released a study in which they analyzed U.S. retail pork.  

They found trace levels of an adrenaline-like drug called ractopamine in about 20% of the pork samples.  The food borne bacteria, Yersina, was found in 66% of pork samples.

The National Pork Producers Council tried to address concerns about ractopamine by noting that the levels in meat of this muscle growth promoter, which is fed to pigs in the form of Paylean™ and turkeys in the form of Topmax™, were below the limit set by the UN Codex Commission this summer.

What they didn’t mention was that due to outstanding safety concerns, the Commission’s drug residue limit only passed by a single vote out of 143 ballots cast.

The Codex Commission based this drug residue limit in meat on the only human data available, a study of just six people that wasn’t designed to establish safety. At higher doses, the study subjects reported their hearts racing and pounding—so much so that one subject had to be withdrawn from the study. At a lower dose, though, no cardiac changes were noted. So that’s the dose the Codex Commission used to calculate the maximum allowable meat residue and acceptable human daily intake levels.

The discovery of Yersinia in pork is no surprise. Pigs are considered to be to be the main reservoir for Yersinia enterocolitica and pork products the main source of human infection. While most foodborne pathogens come from a variety of sources, 100 percent of the attributable Yersinia outbreaks reported in the United States from 1999 through 2008 were caused by pork. What was a surprise is the level of contamination of the U.S. pork supply—69 percent of samples tested positive—and the level of antibiotic resistance. Ninety percent of the Yersinia bacteria found contaminating the pork was resistant to one or more antibiotics.

In most cases, Yersinia food poisoning causes an acute “stomach flu” characterized by fever, abdominal pain, and often bloody diarrhea. Severe cases are frequently confused with appendicitis, leading to unnecessary emergency surgery.

Long-term complications of infection include chronic inflammation of the eyes, kidneys, heart, and joints. Within a year of a bout of Yersinia food poisoning, victims appear to have a 47-fold higher risk of coming down with autoimmune arthritis.

The bacteria may also play a role in triggering an autoimmune thyroid condition known as Graves’ disease. View View the video and read the entire article.


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