I was sent the video below today, which was produced by Dr. Michael Greger, the director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States. Since our founding, The Peggy Lillis Memorial Foundation has been raising awareness of clostridium difficile and the danger it presents to the public and we have primarily focused on people becoming infected in hospitals and the community.
Dr. Greger’s video shines the light on a new avenue where the public can acquire C. diff: Supermarket meat. I urge you to watch the video and share it with your networks.
- 42% of sample supermarket meat contained toxigenic C. diff bacteria. In May 2009, a join study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Arizona tested cooked and uncooked meat purchased at supermarkets. They found that 42% of the meat tested contained the bacteria, indicating that meat consumption may play a role in inter-species transmission of C. diff. The riskiest meat was ground turkey.
- The timeline between consuming C. diff infected meat and becoming symptomatic could be years. C. diff is a very hearty bacteria that can live virtually undetected in your gut. Usually, though not always, the good bacteria in our guts keeps the C. diff in check. But taking certain antibiotics, some chemotherapy treatments and illnesses of the immune system such as HIV and multiple sclerosis can cause an imbalance in your gastrointestinal immunity allowing the C. diff to run rampant. C. diff infections can lead to life threatening conditions, including pseudomembraneous colitis and toxic megacolon.
- Recommended cooking temperatures and times may not kill C. diff. Because it is a spore, C. diff can survive for up to two hours at the recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers to do not kill C. diff. As you’re out and shopping, you may touch uncooked meat and trying to be safe, use a hand sanitizer. But studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol based hand sanitizers do not kill C. diff. Only hand washing will remove the bacteria.
- C. diff may be spread by a simple handshake. As we get ready for Superbowl Sunday, many Americans will be grilling. It’s important to keep in mind that C. diff from contaminated meat can be spread by a warm handshake, if you’re not washing your hands thoroughly.
So what can we do? The best defense against C. diff is washing your hands thoroughly, particularly if you’re been in a healthcare facility or are handling meat. Beyond that, being informed about the risk factors for C. diff such as antibiotics usage – so you can get treatment right away if you display C. diff symptoms - are key. Finally, we must ask more of the FDA and other regulatory agencies that are responsible for keeping our food supply safe.
Watch Dr. Gergen’s video: