Call for tests on livestock and meatOrganic campaigners warning over MRSA threat

26 June 2007

A new form of the superbug MRSA could reach the UK via imported meat, organic campaigners have warned.

The Soil Association says a new strain has developed amongst intensively farmed pigs, chickens and other livestock on the continent.

The organic body says the superbug has already transferred to farmers, farm-workers and their families in the Netherlands, where 50 per cent of pig farmers have been found to carry farm-animal MRSA.

Antibiotics

The Soil Association says that while it has not yet been found in UK livestock or meat products, the government is not doing enough to look into the risks.

It wants the government to carry out MRSA tests on livestock and meat in the UK.

It also wants the use of veterinary antibiotics to be reduced and screening introduced for farm workers and vets entering the UK from affected countries.

Health impacts

Richard Young, Soil Association Policy Adviser, said: ‘This new type of MRSA is spreading like wildfire across Europe, and we know it is transferring from farm animals to humans – with serious health impacts.

‘Concerned scientists have referred to this as 'a new monster'. Fortunately, it has not yet been found in UK livestock or imported meat, but then neither the government nor the Food Standards Agency are looking for it in live animals or meat.’

The Food Standards Agency said it was aware of the issue and was keeping an eye on developments across Europe, along with a number of government agencies.

It said proper cooking would destroy MRSA in meat.

‘Any possible emerging risk in the UK will be assessed and appropriate action will be taken,' a Food Standards Agency spokesman said.

‘If consumers are concerned by these reports, the Agency's advice on avoiding food poisoning bacteria applies equally to MRSA.’