Antibiotics in Meat May Thwart Efforts to Make Sausage Safe

FRIDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In uncured pepperoni or salami, antibiotic residues in the meat are strong enough to weaken the helpful bacteria that sausage makers add to the product in order to make it safe to eat, a new study finds.

It is common for antibiotics to be used to promote growth or prevent disease in livestock, the researchers explained in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology. These antibiotics can eventually end up in meat.

At the same time, sausage manufacturers commonly place lactic acid-producing bacteria in sausage meat so that the final product is acidic enough to kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that might have been present in the raw meat.

But the antibiotic residues from the livestock can kill these helpful lactic acid-producing bacteria, which then allows the potentially dangerous bacteria to multiply, the investigators found.

The new study, published online Aug. 28 in the journal mBio, found that antibiotic concentrations at levels that meet requirements set by American and European Union regulators can affect the process used to help destroy foodborne pathogens.

"At low concentrations and at regulatory levels set by authorities, we could see that the lactic acid bacteria are more susceptible to the antibiotics than the pathogens [germs] are," Hanne Ingmer, of the University of Copenhagen, said in the news release. "So basically, we can have a situation where residual antibiotics in the meat can prevent or reduce fermentation by the lactic acid bacteria, but these concentrations do not affect survival or even multiplication of pathogens."

This study involved small-scale laboratory experiments, and similar tests need to be conducted in manufacturing facilities, the study authors pointed out.

"The majority of sausages are manufactured at a commercial scale. It has to be addressed whether this is a problem in a real-life facility," Ingmer explained in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service has more about food safety.

SOURCE: American Society for Microbiology, news release, Aug. 28, 2012

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