The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a statement to reassure consumers after the bacteria MRSA was discovered in poultry on an East Anglian farm. This is the first reported case of this particular bacteria being found in livestock in the UK.
The FSA wants consumers to be aware that the risk to the general public is very low, as long as the meat is handled hygienically and is cooked thoroughly. Also, the risk of MRSA being passed directly from an animal to a person is incredibly small.
Steve Wearne, director of policy at the Food Standards Agency, said: “Any risk of contracting MRSA through meat from animals with these bacteria is very low when usual good hygiene and thorough cooking practices are observed.
“All poultry should be handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to destroy any bacteria that may be present.”
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) originally identified the presence of MRSA in the turkeys and chickens at a farm in East Anglia. This particular strand of the bacteria is called Livestock-Associated Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA).
It is not the same strand as the MRSA that is often referred to as a ‘superbug’ in the media and that is generally contracted by people after a stay in hospital.
Angela Kearns, head of the staphylococcus reference service at Public Health England, said: “There are many different strains of MRSA that cause illness in people but this is not one of the strains that we are overly concerned about given the very low number of clinical infections that have been seen in people.”
LA-MRSA is relatively common in livestock from Europe, this includes many countries where the UK sources meat. There are no known cases of people contracting MRSA from eating meat. If the bacteria were to be passed to a person it usually clears within 24 hours, so the risk of getting sick is very low.
The owner of the farm where the LA-MRSA has been found will cleanse and disinfect the areas where the poultry is kept once its current batch has been sold and slaughtered. This is to prevent the next birds catching the bacteria. The AHVLA will re-visit the farm when this has been carried out in order to check whether the bacteria is still present.