Last week, consumer media was abuzz about the Translational Genomics Institute study declaring that half of meat samples are positive for Staphyloccus aureus. The livestock industry immediately responded with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that show steady declines in foodborne illnesses linked to consumption of meat and poultry overall and that foodborne routes are not the main way to get infected with Staph.

On AgriTalk radio this week, Guy Loneragan, BVSc, PhD, veterinary epidemiologist at Texas Tech University, spoke to host Mike Adams on this recent study (listen to the podcast). Loneragan says that this study is not a national prevalence and is not a study that links any of the bacteria to food production. “A lot of the samples that had bacteria are more likely contaminated from human origin rather than animal origin,” Loneragan says.

Loneragan says many people are trying to over-interpret this study, but it’s a limited look at a few markets and doesn’t link anything back to agricultural production. “It likely indicates that many of these bacteria are human origin, not animal origin. Staph. aureus is not a foodborne pathogen. Most of the outbreak studies indicate if you are infected, it’s usually a human-to-human or surface-to-human contact.”

Loneragan says there is a perception that this is a serious problem caused by how animals are raised. “Food safety is important, whether it’s poultry, beef or pork. Food safety is the price of entry into the market. If we can’t provide a consistent safe food, consumer won’t come back. The U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world.” He added this has been a joint effort by the livestock industry, allied industry and the government. “Public health and surveillance data shows the system works.”