Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reduce risk of antibiotic-resistant staph: Buy organic, grass-fed animal foods

Meatless Monday sounds like a better idea than ever, following recent revelations about drug-resistant staphylococcus bacteria in our nation's meat and poultry. But even vegans can be sickened by poor food handling and cross-contamination. Forty-seven percent of 136 meat & poultry samples from 5 supermarkets nationwide contained staph, half of it resistant to antibiotics, in a study released April 15th. A principal source of the antibiotic resistance was the routine feeding of antibiotics to farm animals, researchers said.

Contamination of meat, poultry and eggs due to e.coli or salmonella is pretty common, as can ben seen on USDA's recall list. What's scary about the recent findings is the staggering 50 percent antibiotic-resistance figure. Staph can cause food poisoning, skin infections, blood poisoning and pneumonia. Treatment options are reduced when antibiotics don't kill the germs. The meat samples in the study included methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the hospital "super bug" responsible for many deaths.

What to Do?

1. Know where your food comes from. Buy local and/or certified organic, grass-fed animal products. In an article about how dangerous bacterial infections are on the rise, Consumer Reports recommends buying organic and grass fed animal products because they're free of antibiotic residues that can lead to the development of resistant bacteria.

See my updated blog listing "Choose It" vs. "Lose It" green humane animal labels.

Buy from a trusted local source who gives you assurances of sustainable practices and safe food handling. Once a week, my husband walks to the Kapiolani Community College Farmers' Market, a mile and a half from our Honolulu home, and buys local grass-fed meat from Chef Hardy Binscher, pictured above. The executive chef at Michel's, a bastion of fine farm-to-table Honolulu dining, Chef Hardy also grills fresh meat and sustainable fish burgers to order at his farmers' market booth. This week, it was shutome (Hawaii handline-caught swordfish, a Monterey Bay Aquarium "best choice")* papillote with Swiss chard!

2. Chill it. After buying, take meat, poultry, fish and dairy straight home and refrigerate at 40 degrees until ready to prepare. Bacteria grow rapidly in warm animal products.

3. Handle with care. Before and after preparing meat, fish and poultry, wash hands in hot, soapy water. Wash knives, cutting boards, countertops and sink with more hot, soapy water to prevent cross-contamination of other foods. Here are more safety tips.

4. Cook thoroughly. When in doubt, use a thermometer. For internal temps needed to kill pathogens in meat, fish and poultry, see FDA's food prep tip sheet.

For more information:

Keep Antibiotics Working

Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics

*note: Imported swordfish is a "worst choice," and U.S.-caught green ratings depends upon the method used. Always vet your fish at Seafood Watch.

For more green, healthy living news and tips, please sign up for our free monthy e-newsletter at and ask me questions there or in the comment section of this blog.


Alissa said...

You're link to the list of credible animal food labels does now work.
Great article though!

GreenFemme said...

It's fixed now...thank you Alissa for letting me know so quickly! Hope you find it useful.

johana mariz said...

This is a good guide for consumers. I think you should also check your children's food source especially when bought from school canteen since food handler certification training is not required in institutions like this.

Haley McAdams said...

That's a really good list of tips! Food Handling courses can really help people be aware in how they handle foods and beverages. We can get a lot of sickness if we mishandle food. You can get foodborne illnesses like e.coli, salmonella, listeria and etc. There are a lot of benefits in gaining a Food Handling Certificate like California Food Handlers Card. First, it is a plus if you are planning to apply in restaurants or hotels because they look for people who gain certification in this course. Second, you yourself can prevent contamination of food which can lessen the problems of your employer/boss. And many more.