Staph seen in nearly half of U.S. meat
April 15th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
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Almost half of the meat and poultry sold at U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores contains a type of bacteria that is potentially harmful to humans, a new study estimates.

Researchers tested 136 packages of chicken, turkey, pork, and ground beef purchased at 26 grocery stores in five cities around the country, and found that 47 percent contained Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), a common cause of infection in people.

What's more, roughly half of the contaminated samples contained strains of the bacteria that were resistant to at least three antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracycline. Some strains were resistant to a half dozen or more.

Get the rest of the story at CNN Health and read more about tainted food and recalled products

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Filed under: Health News • Meat • Recalls • Tainted Food

soundoff (769 Responses)
  1. NauticalMan

    We eat much less meat than we ever did, and what we eat is now 100% grass fed from birth to slaughter. Both beef and bison are available in a few stores and online. Cows are injected with growth hormones and about 8 lbs of antibiotics while finishing their growth in feedlots. Grass fed meat has a much higher ration of good fats to bad than corn fed. The reason they use antibiotics is because ruminants such as cows get sick when eating large amounts of grain. Not a guarantee but gives us a fighting chance and is a lot healthier overall. Downside is grass fed takes longer to raise to market weight and is double the price aprox.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  2. Phil

    Instead of growing healthy beef, the U.S. farming industry is growing and breeding lethal bacteria. Just because they want to make some more profit...
    Buy organic beef, it is much healthier and tastes much better.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  3. Christine

    And this would be why we buy meat from local farms with grass-fed animals.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  4. nr_buckeye

    136 samples does not a nationwide survey make!

    April 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  5. kch

    Irresponsible journalism. Is anyone really this stupid?

    April 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  6. KenG

    OH GIVE ME A BREAK!.... I'll have to stop eating EVERYTHING, give up BREATHING, hide in the DARK, keep my distance from every living thing (or I might get a cold), what I eat, drink, where I live, who I live with, which doctor I see. I'm doomed.

    Enough is enough. COOK THE DAMN MEAT and don't wash your hands in it.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |

    News is so sensationalist in this country. They make up your mind on everything even how you wipe your butt. No one thinks for themselves anymore and two political parties don't make a true democracy.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  8. Pat


    April 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  9. Dan Rather

    This is irresponsible journalism; the like of which we haven't seen since I was on television.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  10. JCA

    As others have mentioned, it's strange that they chose to use a photo of organic meat for this story. I see nothing in the story that mentions anything about organic meat. Yet the first thing you see is a photo of it when you click onto this page, which alarmed me at first, as I enjoy eating organic meat.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  11. Anisa

    This is just another reason why you shouldn't eat meat. I am a strict vegetarian because I think I should put respect for all life before my taste buds. I don't think anyone should make a living off of killing. Saying that going vegetarian is hurting slaughterhouse workers is like putting Jews in a gas chamber and saying that if we didn't, the people making the cyanide would be financially hurting. My reward for not eating a corpse that has been barbarically murdered in cold blood is having my food Staph-free and no cancer in my colon.

    My slogan is "kill a cow, go to hell," because if anyone thinks animals are of lesser importance, they deserve to get the disgusting diseases in meat.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  12. Pete

    Cook ur meat appropriately and freeze it to decrease parasite counts.

    Cooking temp/time/bacterial death

    °F °C Minimum Time
    120 49 21 hours
    122 50.0 9.5 hours
    124 51.1 4.5hours
    126 52.2 2 hours
    128 53.4 1 hours
    130 54.5 30 minutes
    132 55.6 15 minutes
    134 56.7 6 minutes
    136 57.8 3 minutes
    138 58.9 2 minutes
    140 60.0 1 minute
    142 61.1 1 minute
    144 62.2 Instant

    Parasite inactivation:
    Freezing pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5 °F (−15 °C) or three days at −4 °F (−20 °C) kills larval worms.

    USE SOME COMMON SENSE HERE PEOPLE!! TEST UR IMMUNE SYSTEM ONCE IN A WHILE AND QUIT BEING SO FRAGILE!!Eat meat and use common safety practices. Would you consume asparagus without rinsing first with water?? There is probably a lot of bacteria on our veggies as well.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Anisa

      have you been living under a rock?! THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN MEAT!!! unless you consider a corpse with 1,000 parasite larva per square inch clean...

      April 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • What?

      Pete, you're a little 'off' here. You're quoting info for deactivating trichina, the parasitic worm that causes trichinosis, a totally different ballgame from bacteria. Time/temperature kill relationships differ for most of the 'bugs', and what works for one won't work for another.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  13. serious black

    Notice how they chose a picture of 'organic beef'. I think "they" (big corporations) are going to go after the organic food market. We are taking too much control back from corporations in all manner of our lives with organic and local food choices, hybrid vehicles and a growing market base interested in green choices, that can't make 'them' happy. I think 'they' will try to discredit the organic food market in order to gain more control and then try to regulate it out of existence. Just my opinion. I've been eating organic meats and veggies for years (we raised cows in my youth and even butchered myself) and never once gotten ill from any item no matter what farm. The only time I've gotten ill is from USDA 'approved' meats/eggs most likely stored at insufficient temperatures.

    Peace out!

    April 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  14. Joe Mahma



    Make no mistake. The well-being of every living thing on Earth is constantly being weighed against the profits of our corporate overlords.

    Until people are falling over dead in the streets prematurely, a little disease and cancer here and there will be allowed.


    April 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  15. Lafemmenixita

    PETA=People Eating Tasty Animals

    April 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  16. jim

    I would hope all meat eaters would d ie
    The animals are tortured their entire lives so you can have a big mac

    April 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  17. Lafemmenixita

    Wow Jim that's a little extreme don't you think???

    April 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • jim

      No...extreme is how animals are treated for food, medicine and cosmetics.

      April 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
      • Anisa

        you rock! I'm with you all the way! Meat is matter how you slice it

        April 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  18. jim

    I would hope all meateaters would d ie
    The animals are tortured their entire lives so you can have a big mac

    April 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Anisa

      you rock! I am totally with you. People who eat meat deserve to be treated like the animals in factory farms.

      April 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  19. Lafemmenixita

    same reaction as* me, woops drinking wine and typing doesn't mix.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  20. Bill

    Half the meat in the country consists of thousands of tons. We should be seeing a massive outbreak of steph infections, yet this is not happening. Why? The reason is most meat is cooked and the bacteria is killed and we have anti-bodies that prevent us from getting sick.

    This is just journalism at its worst, a CNN writer crying wolf where the goal is to create reader hysteria.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  21. Lafemmenixita

    Whew, so glad it seems most people had the same reaction to me. I'm so sick of alarmist type articles like this. Having developed a MRSA infection which is Methicillin-resistant (and penicillin resistant)Staphylococcus aureus, last year, I learned a lot about staph infections. I learned we carry staph bacteria in our nose but it can result in infection if skin is broken and the bacteria gets inside and doesn't heal properly, but is usually contracted from touching something an infected person has touched, and the prime environment to catch MRSA is a hospital. I'm pretty sure I got it from riding a bus to work for a year because there were the dirtiest, sketchiest, most drug-addicted people out there sitting in seats next to me. It was during that year of bus-riding I got two infections. At any rate, all it took was a different antibiotic to heal and I bought some special cleaning solvent and ointment to prevent future outbreaks. Since my infection I have met three other people who have had it as well, one was a mother of a child who said every kid in their neighborhood got an outbreak from jumping on the same trampoline. None of them died by the way. It's easily treatable. The only time it is fatal is if it gets into your bloodstream like during heart surgery. I know someone whose mother died from MRSA in that case. Based on my experience, I'm not that concerned that the simple strain of staph is found in meat. We are also meat and we also carry that bacteria. It is only MRSA that can be fatal and that is only if it is untreated and gets into your bloodstream, usually through surgery.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  22. Kevin

    I stopped buying meat in stores - I go to a local butcher who raises his own cows

    April 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  23. GloSeattle

    And we inject ammonia into our ground beef to prevent E-Coli...let's just have chemists produce food, oh wait we have that already with Monsanto who owns our seeds (corn, etc..)

    April 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  24. Sillygramma

    Seriously, Seriously?! Staphylococcal Food Poisening, aka Staphylococcal Gastroenteritis comes from eating, wait for it Mister Seriously?! FOOD tainted with certain types of Staph. Darn those stomach acids, falling down on the job.
    " Symptoms usually begin abruptly with severe nausea and vomiting starting about 2 to 8 hours after the contaminated food is eaten. Other symptoms may include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and sometimes headache and fever. Severe fluid and electrolyte loss may cause weakness and very low blood pressure (shock). Symptoms usually last less than 12 hours, and recovery is usually complete. Occasionally, staphylococcal food poisoning is fatal, especially in the very young, the very old, and people weakened by long-term illness." – Merck

    Stomach acids are just not cutting it. Perhaps the reason you don't hear about a "mass outbreak" is because few people seek medical attention for 12 hours of puking their guts out while sitting on the toilet. That doesn't mean they aren't sick.

    How about we stop giving “subtherapeutic” doses of antibiotics to the animals just to cause weight gain. While were at it, we could stop the hormones we pump into the cattle. Maybe we'd have fewer 7 years olds going through puberty. And while were at it – COWS ARE NOT INTENDED TO EAT CORN, but if you decide to raise grass fed cattle, you have to be careful. The corn industry is very powerful and they can effectively put you out of business. By the way – your dogs and cats don't naturally eat corn either, but the CORN KINGS have strong armed the pet food industry, too.
    -Former long-time nurse for physician specializing in nutritional medicine.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • What?

      Your 'name' is appropriate. You do realize that Staphylococcal food poisoning is a food intoxication, and not a food infection, don't you? and that stomach acid will kill the bacteria but not deactivate the enterotoxin?

      Oh, yeah, about that COWS ARE NOT INTENDED TO EAT CORN thing – have you bothered to tell the cows that? because I'm pretty sure that they have to be educated to that fact, at least by the way they act any time they get around corn. You really should stick to your 'human medicine' and leave the animal science stuff to others who know a little more about it than you do.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:22 am |
      • sillygramma

        Yes, I did know that it is the toxins, not the staph itself that is the culpret in the GI tract issues. But you don't get the toxins without the staph. While I have a particular dislike of GI problems, I am more concerned about the mommy making meatloaf with her hands. Concered about the little kid eating a burger. Yes, staph is everywhere, all over us and everything around us and I'm old enough to have been around when that was no big deal. If you got a staph infection you took one course of antibiotics, maybe an injection, and you were cured. Now, thanks to resistant strains, it's a different game. Just last year, in my office of 33 people, 3 got staph infections. MRSA. The first guy runs marathons and had to have knee surgery. Two weeks post-op the infection made itself known – surgery to clean out as much infection as possible – ICU for 2 days – 2 more days in Hospital – more weeks at home – Pick Line for months,etc. A year later and he is still having problems. Second guy got it on his face, probably from a shaving nick. Now that was gross. Poor guy used to be kind of cute. The last guy doesn't even know how he got it. He ended up in the hospital and had months of treatment for an staph infection on his forearm without any discernable break in the skin. 40 years ago, it was usually no big deal. Now we feed the staph a steady diet of antibiotics, given to the cows for the side effect of fatter cows and prophylactic protection against mastitis. That would be like taking penicillin every day so as to prevent yourself from getting strep throat in the future. Having been fed the antibiotics for all of these years, the staph, which is normally present on cows, as it is on us, isn't NORMAL at all. It may be normal for it to be there, but there is nothing normal about this staph. This staph is giving those antibiotics the finger and this staph, staph strong enough to survive on and in our "treated" meat is the kind of staph that doesn't give a damn about our antibiotics, anymore. Couple that with years of people using antibiotics like they were aspirin, and we have created "Super Bugs." This is where we're at. It is what it is. It's not about frightening people, although I think we should every once in a while, it's about enlightening them. You know...Knowledge is power...fore-warned is fore-armed...that sort of thing. I will continue to eat my steaks, burgers, and pot roasts. The thing is, washing of hands, avoiding cross contamination, covering wounds apropriately, these things aren't just about cleanliness being next to godliness, clean hands clean mind, or whatever saying the moms of 20, 30, and 40 years ago used on us. It's about real and potentialy devastaing dangers and therefore, precautions must be followed. My experience has been that it usually takes a real good scare to get people to change their ways. Universal Precautions didn't exist in hospitals before AIDES scared people into a panic. Many of the practices we now accept as standard in the area of Infection control were, prior to the AIDES panic, only applied to patients in quarantined rooms. Thanks to a healthy dose of fear, avoiding contact with bodily fluids is something everyone takes seriously, now. Kids using dirtly old Boy Scout or Girl Scout knives to cut themselves and rub their open, bleeding wounds together, mixing their blood, becoming Blood Brothers is a part of my past, but thanks to the great motivator, FEAR, it won't be a part of my grandchildrens'. Butterfly a Filet Mignon, roll out some meatballs, stop in at Micky D's for a big burger. Enjoy your food. But be afraid enough so that you make safety measures a priorty in your home. By the way, I am not an "over cleaner"or a germaphobe. No disinfectant wipes for my desk, when a coworker has a cold, thank you very much. I like the germs that share my space with me. The more the merrier. If we expose ourselves to germs in small doses on a regular basis, we build stronger immune systems. A strong immune system may be the best protection, yet.
        You see, silly doesn't mean stupid.

        Eat meat, but be clean about it, and stay away from the steak tartar.

        April 16, 2011 at 5:31 am |
      • sillygramma

        One more thing. Many animals will eat anything they are fed, whether their bodies are designed for that food or not. Chocolate can be fatal to dogs, but try to stop a dog who gets ahold of a 3 pound bag of M & Ms. I think it is you who needs to do aome more research. The digestive tract of cattle is designed for grass, not grain. Little Boy Blue's cows may have been in the corn, but in the real world, if left to fend for themselves, the cows will be found grazing in the grass, not grabbing ahold of ears of corn, ripping them off the stalk and chomping down, through the husk, mind you, for a mid-day snack. The only way a cow eats corn is if man is control of the cow's diet.

        April 16, 2011 at 5:52 am |
      • What?

        While I agree with most of your reply, I do take exception to some things –

        MRSA is a bad actor, there's no doubt about that. There are multiple posters here who seem to believe – or at least want everyone else to believe – that MRSA infections area direct result of feeding antibiotics to animals, especially cattle. Mastitis really is only a concern with dairy cattle, because you can't sell the milk of a cow with mastitis (= lost income); however, you can't sell the milk from a cow on antibiotics, either, so dairy cattle simply are not given prophylactic protection against mastitis.

        Your co-worker who had the knee surgery apparently picked up the infection in the hospital, where MRSA actually originated. The prevailing theory among people who should know is that the MRSA being seen on farms and in animals now actually was transferred there from a hospital source. I'm sure you also know that MRSA is now poppin up in place where it never existed – or was expected – before, in places that have nothing to do with animal agriculture. It is unlikely that these point sources are animal-derived.

        And I am here to tell you that – given the chance – even if they'e never seen it before, cows absolutely will devour ears of corn "through the husk", but they won't stop there, they'll eat the entire corn stalk, ear and all. They have rumens so that they can truly digest and get the nutrients out of celluose; that doesn't mean they can't digest starch, too. Given this line of reasoning a deer, which is also a ruminant, "won't/can't" eat grain unless forced – you know anything about deer and what they eat?

        April 16, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  25. brent

    Canada had healthy food to eat – we're good.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  26. David Fry

    Unless I missed something this article doesn't tell you who the researchers are, if the bacteria are present in high enough levels to cause disease in a health adult, whether cooking will make the meat safe, etc. Bacteria actually are present in uncooked tubors than they are in uncooked meat. Does that mean we should stop eating tubors. This article is worse than useless.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  27. dtboco3

    Now that is some sensationalist journalism. Simply cook your meat and you don't have to worry about it. I eat red meat and poultry on a regular basis and have never been sick from it. If 50% of meat were contaminated, and cooking didn't kill the bacteria, then I would be really sick almost constantly. If you are really worried about it, invest a few bucks in a meat thermometer to ensure proper internal cooking temp. Problem solved.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  28. viranka

    oh great now that half the meat in usa is tainted and thanks to the brain dead republicans and that includes there noobies who know nothing (rookies). they forced cuts in the food inspection industry for their budget cuts and now expect thousands to probably drop dead. guess the GOP figures the way to win is kill off the opposition.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  29. grr

    Quit buying it from places hiring ILLEGALS.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  30. Vic

    Staph may exist in "1/2 of U.S. meat..." or it may not.
    This study certainly does not show that.
    136 packages from 5 cities? A rather small statistical universe from which to level this sort of accusation at 50% of the meat available in the U.S., not to mention the details NOT disclosed here.

    All this article proves is that crap "science reporting" is on the rise.
    Considering the prevalence of S. aureus in humans anyway, ignorant "scare reports are a much bigger risk.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  31. sam

    Meat of any kind.....including fish just doesn't taste good to me at 72 years old. I eat fresh veggies, brown rice, eggs and fresh fruit plus cheese. I've never had any kind of stomach virus for at least 35 years.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  32. iDoggiebag

    Help in the Form of an Alert System..NOT the Scare System @NipperAlert

    April 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  33. Sandra LeVin

    @TwM – your sense of compassion is overwhelming.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  34. Ria

    Well, seeing as staph is killed during cooking, it would make sense for people to take care if they have open wounds on their hands while handling meat. And, also know that staph a. is've got it on your skin, and probably colonies in your nostrils. So, does staph on meat frighten me? Um, no... I sure wish people would stop trying to scare the clueless public.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  35. teresapelka

    You can't stop eating meat really without any harm to the carnivora specimen you are as a human – meat has the proteins your body needs. Sanitary control becomes very important.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  36. rose helen militello

    should'nt we take care of our bodies as we do our cars?

    April 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  37. Laura Hansen

    This is really scary! Are we the only country that posions our own food supply? I think it is so scary people just don't care anymore or they just don't know what to do. I take a Nutritional Cleansing product everyday to help with some of the impurities. Our country needs to wake up & find out what to do to either cut back or find better options.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  38. truthinrock

    This just in fromn our crack reporter, Captain Obvious, "Staph is on EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME!

    April 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  39. rose helen militello

    i buy my meat at our local butcher,the meat is grown here.i never ever buy grocery store poultry, nor do i eat poultry in a restaurant.look at some of the chicken breasts in the grocery,they are huge that tells me that tyson loads them up on hormones.a few years ago there was a documentry on t.v.about poultry packing plants it was disgusting.also a few years ago a large chain grocery in our city was busted cleaning poultry in bleach water and re-packaging it if it became outdated.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  40. JakeTheSnake

    Well bring on the bacteria!!!! I'm actually having some staph steak right now

    April 15, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Anisa

      well then I hope you get staph for being so insensitive to animals

      April 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  41. DanInLeander

    What is REALLY scary is the risk of Mad Cow disease in just about every vegetable in the country. Bone meal has been used as a fertilizer on farmlands for decades. And farmlands contain a built-in risk with rainy weather, which encourages growth of a multitude of toxic fungi. Who knows what else is in that soil?Thank goodness I'm not a vegetarian of any type. I'll consume an occasional salad here & there, but to limit a diet to vegetables comprises a risk that is simply unacceptable.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  42. microinor

    The fact that surface bacteria are found on cuts of meat concerns me more than the drug-resistant ones. Drs. have helped create "Super-bugs" in humans by using antibiotics and antivirals as a first line of defense in humans for decades. Prophylactic mega-doses in livestock has the effect of giving a selective advantage to drug resistant strains. Killing off all non-resistant strains and any competition to the detrimental.l

    April 15, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  43. gator

    So, according to the documentary Food Inc if the meat producers fed the cows grass for one week before the slaughter it would cut down on bacteria contaminated meat by over 75%. (i think that number was right , it could even be higher).
    But the meat producers wont do this because it cuts into their profits too much. Their loss mitigation experts say it costs them less money to pay out lawsuits than to feed the cows grass?

    Watch Food Inc. I am not a tree hugger but it was very informative to say the least.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  44. Sunny

    136 samples from 26 stores, nationwide? That is statiscally COMPLETELY insignificant and not even news worthy except to cause hysteria. Period.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  45. Robby

    Forgive me if this sounds immature, but, "meat staph", haha.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  46. yihwan

    this is quite possibly one of the worst polls ever constructed. Care to differentiate between "I stopped eating meat for other reasons" and "I didn't eat meat anyway"? What about "I've cut down somewhat" and "I have meat here and there, but I'm very careful." Maybe the pollster will use this data to conclude that an absurd percentage claims to "still eat meat" clumping all the vague answer choices together.

    Or maybe he's just stupid.

    April 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
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