Pig Farms and Flesh-Eating Bacteria
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof usually writes about Darfur and other far-off lands, but this week, he ventured into America’s heartland to talk about a plague that is afflicting a small town in Indiana that happens to be home to factory hog farms. The plague is MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, aka “flesh-eating bacteria.” You can read Kristof’s fascinating column here.
There’s no proof—yet—of any link between Camden, Indiana’s MRSA outbreak and the surrounding hog farms, but Kristof notes that a strain of MRSA has been linked to hog farms in the Netherlands, and that same strain has been found in 45 percent of pig farmers and 49 percent of pigs tested by a researcher at the University of Iowa.
Of course, MRSA is just one of many scary life- and health-threatening bugs found lurking in pig flesh. Other, common pork-borne bacteria include listeria, salmonella, and E. coli. Pig flesh is also host to trichina and tape worms (one of the latter was recently removed from a woman’s brain—blecch). And let’s not forget the SARS epidemic that swept Asia a few years ago and may return—not to mention the loads of saturated fat and cholesterol in every slice of ham, bacon, and sausage.
Kristof cautions that MRSA is just the tip of the disease iceberg that can likely be traced to the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. And with all that filth on factory farms, antibiotic use is rampant. Stay tuned, because Kristof plans to talk more about that issue in his Sunday column.
Written by Alisa Mullins