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Bacteria Levels On U.S. Meat Spark U.K. Import Fears

Campaigners fear that a post-Brexit trade deal between the U.K. and the U.S. could lead to an influx of cheap meat into Britain’s supermarkets.

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2 Minutes Read

A study carried out at George Washington University has found that 14 percent of U.S. store-bought chicken samples, and 13 percent of pork samples, carry traces of salmonella. 

What’s more, 60 percent of pork products tested positive for E coli, as did 70 percent of beef products, 80 percent of chicken products, and over 90 percent of turkey products.

Antibiotic resistance

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that the same research group had found concerning levels of Staphylococcus bacteria on American store-bought meat. Staph can cause a range of health problems, ranging from skin infections to pneumonia. 

While cooking eliminates staph, contamination can still occur when raw meat comes into contact with hands and surfaces. Yet more concerning is the fact that, in 96 percent of meats that tested positive for staph, the bacteria were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic. 52 percent were resistant to three or more antibiotics.

“The bacteria is always going to be there. But the reason why they’re resistant is directly related to antibiotic use in food animal production,” said Dr. Lance Price, head researcher on the study.

Coming to U.K. supermarkets? 

Campaigners fear that a post-Brexit trade deal between the U.K. and the U.S. could lead to an influx of cheap meat into Britain’s supermarkets. In its ongoing trade talks with the US, the British government has yet to commit to clear parameters around meat imports, despite calls to apply domestic food standards to products from overseas.


This is the subject of an upcoming Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Dirty Secrets of American Food: Coming to a Supermarket Near You? The show, which airs on Monday, will investigate welfare concerns and declining hygiene standards in American food production, as well as the use of pesticides and hormones currently banned in the U.K.

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