Farm Ireland

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Antibiotics overuse blamed as MRSA found in Irish pork

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney launched the Irish Society Handbook with the help of society chairman Toby Couchman at the RDS yesterday.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney launched the Irish Society Handbook with the help of society chairman Toby Couchman at the RDS yesterday.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The widespread overuse of antibiotics in farms and homes has been blamed after the discovery of MRSA in Irish pork sold in a UK supermarket.

Tests on 100 packets of pork chops, bacon and gammon on UK supermarket shelves found it was present in nine products - eight Danish and one Irish.

Bill Cashman, president of the Irish Veterinary Council, said the discovery of the MRSA in the one Irish product was "another indicator to stop talking and do something about" the growth of antibiotic resistance, which results from overuse.

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) insisted there was "no evidence" of an increased risk of human infection following contact or consumption of food with the livestock-associated MRSA CC398 strain.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said a study in 2008 had found no evidence of MRSA in Irish piggeries.

"No tests have been done at retail level in Ireland given this finding and the EFSA risk assessment," said the FSAI, which pointed out thorough cooking of meat will kill the MRSA strain.

The 2008 study looked at antibiotic-resistant MRSA in breeding pigs around the EU. There were 40 breeding holdings tested in Ireland, with no MRSA detected.

In the latest tests for the Guardian newspaper, only one product from Ireland was tested, alongside 74 Danish pork products and 25 from the UK. The MRSA strain was found in the one Irish product - a Tesco Irish unsmoked gammon steak - that was on sale in the UK.

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Tesco Ireland said providing "safe food" was always its "absolute priority".

"We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that our strict food safety and stringent quality checks and procedures, which are to the standards of those required by the Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia, are met on all our pork products," a spokeswoman said.

The UK product tested has not been sold in Tesco Ireland stores for more than five months.

In Denmark, MRSA has been identified on two-thirds of pig farms, with measures in place to reduce antibiotic usage.

Mr Cashman said more action was needed to reduce antibiotic usage but not just in farm animals but also among pets and humans.

The Irish Farmers' Association's pig chairman Pat O'Flaherty said Ireland's pig breeders operated 'minimal disease' units to avoid illnesses, with strict control of antibiotics.

The Agriculture Department has set up an committee with the Health Department to address the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

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