Superbugs found in pork sold at US Walmart stores

02 December 2019

Our latest research finds superbugs in pork sold at Walmart stores in US. More than half of Walmart's batches tested positive for at least one multi-drug resistant strain, or “superbug”.

We recently released our US Pork and the Superbug Crisis report and the findings showed that 80% of the bacteria isolated from Walmart US's pork products were resistant to at least one antibiotic. 

Additionally, more than half contained at least one multi-drug resistant strain resistant to three or more classes of antibiotic.

This investigation follows a report we released last year, where pork products tested in five countries, including Spain and Thailand, also contained superbugs resistant to antibiotics.

What are antibiotic resistant bacteria?

Antibiotic resistant bacteria threaten public health and weaken our defenses against illnesses and infections in humans that are difficult to treat. They result in prolonged hospitalizations and higher mortality.

Global health agencies have warned that we are entering a post-antibiotic era where common infections and routine surgeries may once again be life-threatening.

Antibiotics overuse in farming

Pork producers use large amounts of antibiotics as a result of low-welfare practices and conditions. Overuse of antibiotics contributes to the rise and spread of bacteria on farms that are resistant to the medicines typically used to kill them.

These "superbugs" can travel off-farm via water, air, workers, and wildlife or through the food chain in the pigs themselves, reaching humans and causing life-threatening illness.

How does this affect Australia?

Australia does import pork from the US. According to the US Meat Export Federation, exports to Oceania continue climbing 37% from a year ago in volume (85,557 mt) and 33% in value ($243 million), with impressive growth in both Australia and New Zealand.

The problem for Australian shoppers who want to avoid pork products imported from the US  is our inadequate country of origin labelling. Shoppers have no way of knowing where their pork products come from. 

Some retailers are doing the right thing and going beyond the inadequate labelling laws to give consumers more information, such as Coles and Primo. But big players like Woolworths are not giving consumers the information they deserve.

Our Raise Pigs Right campaign aims to get pigs out of cages and not left to suffer in barren environments that promote disease. Rather, these highly intelligent animals should be allowed to live in groups, with room to move around naturally.

Change is possible and higher welfare systems are good for animal health and peoples’ health and it’s good for business, too.

 

More than half of Walmart's batches tested positive for at least one multi-drug resistant strain, or “superbug”.
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