US Meat Contaminated with Deadly Superbug

Looks like the USDA’s chickens have finally come home to roost.

Nearly half (47%) of all samples of meat and poultry taken from supermarkets across the US reveal contamination from Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Staph is bad enough (causing food poisoning and skin infections), but nearly half of the staph bacteria discovered on these meat products is a nasty antibiotic-resistant type known as MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

MRSA is running wild in US hospitals

Currently doctors are powerless to stop or easily treat it.

The reason MRSA is so difficult is because it has morphed beyond antibiotics’ ability to defeat it. This is why it’s referred to as a “superbug.”

MRSA is responsible for nearly 100,000 life-threatening infections a year (usually of the bloodstream or urinary tract) and 16,000-18,000 deaths (often from treatment-resistant pneumonia).

This represents more annual fatalities than AIDS causes!

Many of these MRSA infections are contracted in the hospital—one of the main reasons why hospitals are dangerous places for healthy people.

“An infection that just won’t go away”

MRSA preys upon people with compromised immune systems (such as hospital in-patients), babies, and the elderly.

Infected patients generally spend triple the average length of time in the hospital … are charged three times as much due to the intensive care required … and have five times the risk of a death.

So this is what’s currently breeding on supermarket meat and poultry – and your chance of bringing home a MRSA-infected product is one-in-four.

And here’s something even scarier: MRSA is spread by contact. So not only do meat products carry it, but the bacteria can be spread by the store employees (the butchers, stockers, and checkout clerks) … the carts that circulate throughout the shopping population … and your very own kitchen (unless you’re ultra-vigilant).

If you dine out, you can add restaurant employees to this list.

So who do we have to “thank” for this deadly new danger in our food supply?

The blame falls squarely on the USDA

For more than half a century it has sanctioned disgusting factory farming conditions for livestock referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). I’ve written about this inhumane practice in the past with regard to cattle raising and egg production .

Feedlot livestock are housed in filthy, overcrowded conditions that are ideal for spreading disease. To prevent this, CAFO operators routinely mix antibiotics in the animals’ feed.

This feed is almost always carbohydrate-rich grain because it rapidly fattens the animals (just like it fattens us – but that’s another story). Grain-feeding creates serious problems for cattle whose digestive systems are made for grazing grasses.

When you feed cattle a diet of grain, it creates acidosis in the stomach (rumen) resulting in ulcers. Food bacteria then migrate through these ulcerations and infect the animal’s liver. “Preventive doses” of antibiotics are fed to control this.

Antibiotics also act as a growth-stimulant, causing animals to grow larger and faster, which represents increased profit for the producer.

If this sounds like a lot of antibiotics, you’re right!

Livestock antibiotics (used for purposes other than treating disease) represents the largest use of these drugs (by far!) – about 25 million pounds annually, according to the Organic Consumers Association. This compares to the 3 million pounds of antibiotics administered to people in the US annually to treat diseases.

This, along with our use of growth-hormones, is the main reason why Japan and the European Union have banned the importation of US beef and animal products.

The USDA has had plenty of warnings

For several decades the scientific community has urgently warned the USDA that unrestricted use of agricultural antibiotics would eventually breed a new generation of deadly superbugs, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

The government has had plenty of time to reform the CAFO system to avoid a public health crisis, but lobbyists have been able to convince the USDA to expand the status quo.

Time and again, the economic interests of large, corporate farmers have been placed ahead of the public’s health and safety. (Indeed, billions of tax dollars are paid to CAFO operators every year in the form of farm subsidies.)

Now the day of reckoning is here

At this very moment MRSA-contaminated meat products are sitting in supermarkets and, as of this writing, nothing of consequence is being done to recall these tainted products – or to alert the public.

And it wasn’t FDA inspectors who uncovered the problem.

Rather, the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGRI) discovered the problem through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.

This is serious business, folks

If I were you, I’d think very carefully before purchasing any conventional meat or poultry products – either fresh or frozen – now or in the near future. And that goes for food products containing uncooked meat, such as sausage or prepared meals.

I, for one, am also taking a break from restaurants until there’s a thorough investigation and the coast is clear.

That’s because restaurant workers are notoriously absent-minded when it comes to kitchen hygiene. Salad veggies sliced on a contaminated cutting board or handled after touching tainted raw meat could make you very sick.

Here are some other ways to protect yourself…

I purchase my meat and poultry directly from a local grower here in New Mexico. I know him and his family, visit his operation occasionally to check out the growing conditions, and also inspect the small processing plant where his animals are butchered.

You can do this too. To locate farmers in your area who raise and sell organic, hormone-free, pasture-raised animal products, go to (In Canada, visit

If you can’t take this route, make sure the animal products you buy are labeled “hormone-free, grass-fed, and free-range.” If possible, choose products that come from local purveyors.

Critics love to ridicule this strategy as an elite, fussy, lefty-liberal way to bring home the bacon. But once the news gets out about deadly MRSA contamination, they’ll be climbing all over each other to get their hands on some of these “elitist” products, too.

The health benefits of “pasture-raised”

The reasons to choose pasture-raised animal products are plentiful…

Feedlot beef contains more calories — up to 400 calories per cup – while grass-fed beef has only half that amount (just a few more calories than chicken).

Grass-fed meat is “cleaner”, having been allowed to graze in the sunshine on fresh grass, wild herbs, plus worms and insects.

Feedlot cattle, on the other hand, is fed grains, animal fat, sugar, “chicken waste” (you don’t want to know!), growth hormones, and antibiotics – while being housed in filthy conditions where they stand in their own excrement.

Grass-fed, free-range beef is chock-full of healthful fats, such as omega-3s, an essential fatty acid (EFA) that lowers inflammation and is beneficial for cardiovascular health, proper blood sugar metabolism, and lower cancer risk. (Omega-3 content of free-range beef often rivals that of certain fish!)

Range-raised animal products also contain another healthful fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Ohio State University researchers found that diabetics who added CLA to their diets lost weight and lowered their blood sugar levels. (Grass-fed cattle produce meat and dairy products containing up to 500% times more CLA than animals fed a grain diet.)

Finally, pasture-raised beef is 400% higher in vitamin E than grain-fed beef. Vitamin E, as you know, is the granddaddy of the antioxidants because it protects against free radicals and their oxidative damage to your body and it’s DNA.

And here’s a dirty secret…

Along with Staphylococcus aureus, a 1998 study published in Science also found that feedlot cattle harbored 6.3 million cells of E-Coli (the bacteria responsible for food poisoning) per gram of meat, whereas grass-fed cattle had a scant 20,000.

According to USDA accounts, 70% of all food-borne illnesses can be traced to tainted meat. And each year, 5,000 people die from these illnesses; while 76 million people are hit with a food-borne illness.


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Jim Healthy

Jim Healthy™ is a noted health reporter and author. During his 35-year writing career, Jim has helped break the news about the biggest healing discoveries of the past 30 years, including glucosamine-chondroitin, fish oil, omega-3 foods, and olive oil, as well as the inflammatory effects of eating refined carbs and processed food products. He also is the owner and editor of, where he shares his discoveries about research-proven ways to reverse prevalent health conditions without drugs or painkillers. Jim is the co-author of The Healthy Body Book (Penguin, 1991) and The Fast Food Diet with Stephen Sinatra, MD (Wiley, 2005). His most recent book is The 30-Day Diabetes Cure (co-authored with Dr. Stefan Ripich).

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  1. Anonymous says

    There has to be something wrong with the plant between El Paso TX and Las Cruces, NM. About half way there is a plant with about 3000 cows who never get out of their stalls their entire life! They are milked by automatic milkers that stay attached all the cows life.

    When a cows milk yield drops to some amount, the cow is sold to a company that fattens the cow and then kills it for our consumption as beef steak. This has to be a place the superbug gets onto our dinner table.

  2. gennaro says

    lets petition the legeslaature to pas a law holding the usda and fda officials libale for illness and deaths.i will support a revolt of the existing food heaalth inspection system.

  3. DonnaMae says

    Better yet is not to buy those products. Those businesses will get the message if we can get the word out and they will have to make changes for the better of us all, including other species such as our pets. Its a no wonder we see an explosion of us going downhill. It is best to buy organically when feasible, support that cause and those poorly run businesses. Another thing to consider doing to to write or call our representatives and senators to remind them that they have to consider our requests, the more of us that do it, the better off we can be as a world market. WE can always choose to vote with our dollars and governement. Keep getting the word out to make those in your circle being aware of issues we are faced with. The more of us that know, the better off we can see changes happening for better of all sentient beings. Time is to do it now. So much changed in the last 50 years with factory farming, no wonder this is happening as it is not working the way nature has intended to work. Too much greed is at play with no considerations given to negative impacts.

  4. says

    If you can’t become a vegetarian, you can choose to eat organic chicken. Vegetable and fruits are not safe as well, contain high level of pesticides. It is better to eat organic vegetables and fruits

  5. Anonymous says

    There is nothing new about how our officials operate, we are suppose to be the wealthiest nation in the world, we spend so much money protecting other countries, yet when an eastern nation lays a fart we have to smell the stink, with gasoline prices going way high and everything else along the way European nations along with the Japanese are no fools they banned all cattle products from the USA but as cattle directed to the slaughter house we are partaking with these ludicrous regimens of unhealthy gains, it is a fact that our government do not give a hoot about our health we see it in airports with these unhealthy full scans, Americans are forced to undergo all of this in the name of security yet our so called protectors did not do anything on 9/11 and with all of this security when an enemy will lay a fart we will have to smell the stink as we smell the stink from our own government. JAM

  6. says

    Anonymous Commenter #1, please let me know the name of that company. I live in New Mexico and maybe we can organize some activism around it. How sad!

    Gennaro, the USDA and FDA do indeed need massive reform. I appreciate your input!

    Donna Mae, amen! Some recent numbers show that organic food growth is up 7.7%, while conventional food sales are only up 1%. That shows me that people are indeed voting with their dollars–that change is possible, and people are acting on what they’re learning about health and food safety. I applaud your suggestions that we talk to the people we know–that will be like dropping a pebble in a lake–the knowledge will spread. I’ve learned so much because people around me share things in person, via email, and on facebook. Thank you for recommending giving feedback to lawmakers.

    JAM, you’re so right. Our government does not have our best health interests in mind in this area. We have to stop trusting it to be a protective, shielding agent–we have to protect ourselves. The way to do that is to raise our own awareness about the best, most informed choices to make and then MAKE them. And to tell our friends and loved ones, too!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and let’s keep this conversation going!


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