PREVENTION Magazine takes a highly alarmist view of the possibility that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be linked to food. In fact, MRSA is spread though contact with an infected person or a contaminated surface.
The article also seeks to stoke fears over antibiotic resistance in animals, tying it to the use of healthcare products in live animals. In fact, antibiotics and other health care products are used responsibly in animals. In the broiler chicken industry, usage is carefully controlled by the major poultry companies, who actually own the animals. Antibiotics are used judiciously according to professional guidelines and Food & Drug Administration regulations.
PREVENTION has chosen to quote very selectively and deceptively from a letter from the CDC that puts this matter into perspective. The CDC letter and attached detailed response make it quite clear that the CDC does not consider MRSA to be a problem of the food supply, in direct contradiction to the point the PREVENTION article is trying to make. To quote more fully from the CDC:
“CDC and others have investigated numerous outbreaks of community-associated MRSA infection in the United States, and in NONE of these investigations has animal exposure been identified as a risk factor for infection. Although the finding of MRSA in retail meats suggests a possible role for foodborne transmission, if such transmission occurs, it likely accounts for a very small proportion of human infections in the United States. Recent reports from the Netherlands and Canada suggest that human infections caused by MRSA strains of animal origin occur predominantly among persons with close proximity to colonized or infected animals. In contrast, ALL U.S. outbreaks of community-associated MRSA infections have been traced to conditions that facilitate human-to-human transmission . . . Thus far, there is NO documented role for meat consumption or handling in MRSA transmission.” (emphasis added) (Letter and attachment from CDC Director Julie Gerberding to Congressman Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota.)
MRSA is an infection acquired from humans in the community setting. To tie it to the safe, responsible production and processing of food animals is irresponsible.
Richard L. Lobb
Director of Communications
National Chicken Council