The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)’s Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) found that while food may be contaminated by MRSA, there is currently no evidence that eating or handling contaminated food may lead to an increased risk of humans becoming healthy carriers or infected with the bacterium.
In the case of food-producing animals, a specific type of MRSA, called CC398, has emerged and is most often carried without symptoms by intensively reared animals.
While various types of MRSA, including the strain CC398, can be found in slaughterhouses and on raw meat, the Panel stated that, based on current data, the risk of infection for slaughterhouse workers and persons handling meat appears to be low.
The Panel said though that further work should be performed on harmonising methods throughout the bloc for sampling, detecting and quantifying MRSA in humans and animals, and for detecting MRSA as a contaminant in food, and in the environment.
Meanwhile, UK organic group, the Soil Association, last week claimed that a documentary it had commissioned in conjunction with Compassion in World Farming exposes the rise of a new strain of MRSA in pigs, and its link to the overuse of antibiotics on intensive farms.
'Sick as a pig' was filmed in the Netherlands, one of the countries, according to the Soil Association, most seriously affected by this farm-animal MRSA.
The group said the documentary found that 40 per cent of Dutch pigs and up to 50 per cent of Dutch pig farmers are now carrying the new strain, which is also spreading to the wider population: “It now causes almost one in three cases of MRSA treated in Dutch hospitals.”
According to the Soil Association, approximately 60 per cent of the pig meat eaten in the UK comes from the Netherlands and other countries which have MRSA in their pig herds: “A Dutch government study has found that about 10 per cent of Dutch pork is contaminated with MRSA, yet the UK has introduced no controls on imports,” added the organic body.
Richard Young, Soil Association policy advisor, claims the British government is burying its head in the sand and is wasting a critical opportunity to prevent farm-animal MRSA getting a hold in the UK: “Decisive action could reduce risks to human health, costs to the NHS and avoid another potentially devastating food-safety crisis,” he added.