MRSA on your dinner plate?

Americans love our chicken. It’s a versatile, light meat that’s protein-packed and full of essential vitamins and minerals like B-vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, potassium and zinc… and quite possibly MRSA.

And the latest study from an international team of researchers found that chicken can spread the dangerous and sometimes deadly Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection to you.

By now you’re more than familiar with MRSA — the incredibly antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that’s almost impossible to treat. It usually starts as a skin boil, but the MRSA bacteria can also find its way deeper into your body and cause deadly infections in your bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves or lungs.

People staying in hospitals or working in crowded settings like child care centers or schools are most likely to catch MRSA. But George Washington University researchers proved, for the first time, that you can catch it from preparing a casual chicken dinner in the comfort of your own home.

This new strain of poultry-associated MRSA is spread by handling or eating infected chicken. And guess what’s causing it….

The overuse of antibiotics, of course. Conventional farmers give chickens a lot of antibiotics nowadays. They do it for a variety of reasons, but primarily it’s to boost their growth and keep them alive in overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions.

And agriculture’s overuse of antibiotics is taking a major toll on human health… one that’s only getting worse as time goes on. In fact, the implications of this latest development — a MRSA strain that can spread to humans through their food — has researchers quaking in their boots. And it should have you worried too…

“I fear that if we don’t get antibiotic use in livestock under control, then new, more virulent strains of livestock-associated MRSA will emerge that pose a much greater threat to human health than what we are currently facing,” said the head researcher of the study Robert Skov, MD from the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark.

Now, you can’t control the fact that industrial farmers like to pump their chickens full of antibiotics. But you can control where you get your chicken. There are certain guidelines you can follow to reduce your risk of accidentally picking up a MRSA-contaminated chicken breast:

  • Choose antibiotic-free chicken no matter what
  • Organic, free-range chicken is even safer than antibiotic-free
  • Buy from local farms running small operations if possible
  • Avoid chicken in restaurants unless it’s the highest quality

To put it bluntly, if you want healthy chicken that’s less likely to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria like MRSA, you need to go local and go organic. Check out this local food guide to find a healthy and safe source of chicken near you.

Sources:
  1. “Health Benefits of Chicken.” Organic Facts. https://www.organicfacts.net. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  2. Larsen, et al. “Evidence for Human Adaptation and Foodborne Transmission of Livestock-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Sept. 20, 2016.
  3. “MRSA Infection.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org. Retrieved September 22, 2016.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.