A leading food hygiene lawyer has joined calls for tighter regulations on livestock entering the UK following a report which found MRSA in British pork.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, Compassion in World Farming and Sustain, commissioned a test which examined 97 UK-produced pork products from supermarkets. The results, reported by the Guardian, showed that of the products tested three samples of minced pork from two British supermarkets were found to have the livestock strain of MRSA.
MRSA is particularly dangerous because it is resistant to antibiotics and is therefore difficult to treat. The livestock-associated MRSA can be passed to humans from contaminated products through lapses in food hygiene, such as not thoroughly cooking the meat.
The livestock-associated strain (MRSA CC398) is less harmful to humans than the MRSA strains that cause healthcare-related infections but it can seriously harm those who already have a weakened immune system.
In Denmark there are large numbers of livestock afflicted by MRSA CC398 and it is viewed as a major public health crisis. The main method for spreading the disease is from animal to animal and it is thought that the contaminated meat in the test was infected by imported livestock. There is currently no screening programme for MRSA CC398 on British farms and the government does not screen for the infection in imported animals.
The Guardian reported calls from some academics for tighter controls on the movement and importation of livestock to halt the spread of MRSA. However, others were keen to stress that the findings do not pose a significant risk to the public and good food hygiene should minimise any risk.
Michelle Victor, food safety lawyer from Leigh Day, said: “There needs to be tighter regulations on livestock entering the UK to ensure that it is disease free and fit for human consumption.”