Pork sold by four major UK supermarkets has tested positive for MRSA CC398 – a variant of the superbug, which can cause skin disorders and serious infections in humans.
Products from Sainsbury's, Tesco, the Co-operative and Asda all tested positive for the bacteria during an investigation carried out by The Guardian.
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Of 100 packets of pork chops, bacon and gammon it looked at, nine were contaminated. Six were from Sainsbury's, while the other three supermarkets had one infected product each.
A variant of the antibiotic-resistant MRSA found in some hospitals, CC398 causes no harm to most people it infects. But in some cases it leads to serious complications, such as blood poisoning.
Thorough cooking kills it off, but it can still infect humans who handle raw meat products.
Tesco declined to comment on the findings, while the other three all said they were investigating how their products had been contaminated, adding they believed there was little risk to consumers.
Arriving from Europe
None of the infected packets were British in origin – eight came from Denmark and one from Ireland.
While UK pork is mostly clear of the bacterium, it is endemic in Denmark, Europe's biggest pork producer and a key exporter to the UK. Some 648 Danish people were infected with CC398 in 2013, which increased to 1,271 the following year.
Professor Hans Jørn Kolmos, microbiologist at the University of Southern Denmark, said Britain should be “worried” by this.
“It is an epidemic [that’s] out of control in Denmark,” he told The Guardian.
Britain should be worried about it, you should look at our problems. We should have intervened seven years back when we saw the first cases. Don’t think that this is a problem that will solve itself just by closing your eyes.