As reported in the International Journal of One Health, scientists have discovered that approximately 8% of E. coli caused urinary tract infections [UTIs] in the US are caused by bacterial strains found in chicken, turkey, and pork, sold in stores for human consumption. Most of us think of gastrointestinal symptoms being caused by E. coli, but this pathogen can cause UTIs as well.
Laboratory results demonstrated that, annually, 480,000-640,000 of UTIs in our country are caused by the same bacterial strains found in the meats of animals marketed to shoppers. Eating contaminated meats, consumers expose themselves, and others, to the risk of developing a bladder infection. In most cases, these infections are treated with antibiotics, with good results. But, in some cases, E. coli infections spread to the kidneys, and even cause sepsis [body-wide infection] with organ failure.
One of the causes of these dangerous outbreaks of infection in farmed animals is the liberal, prophylactic [preventive] use of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment . When animals are raised in crowded, unhygienic conditions, infectious diseases spread quickly, causing economic hardship for farmers as animals sicken and die, or require veterinary care.
Farmers also know that when regularly treated with antibiotics, not only are there fewer infectious diseases among farmed animals, but a side effect of the treatment is their more rapid growth. When animals grow more rapidly they can be taken to market sooner, reducing the length of time a farmer has to care for them, spending money to do so. This provides a financial incentive for farmers to treat their animals even when they are well.
This approach to raising livestock, the liberal use of antibiotics, encourages the development of antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens. Consuming resistant strains of bacteria in animal products, will cause a certain percent of us to become ill. Thus, it has become more difficult for doctors to find antibiotics that effectively treat their patients with resistant infections.
Heat will kill E. coli, if the entire portion of meat reaches 160 degrees, as measured on a meat thermometer. Remember, contamination from infected meats, spreads to hands, counters, utensils, glasses, refrigerator handles, sinks, faucets, etc. After handling raw meats, sanitize all surfaces, and hands. Sponges used for this cleaning process can also become contaminated, and should be rinsed thoroughly, and placed in a microwave oven on high for one minute.
On ounce of prevention should help all of us to stay well.
Dateline: Town of Colonie, Albany County, New York’s Capital Region