LIFESTYLE

Undercooked Meat Could Put Diners At Risk Of Antibiotic-Resistant 'Superbugs'

08/12/2015 16:25 GMT | Updated 08/12/2015 16:59 GMT

Next time you ask for a rare steak at a restaurant, you might want to think twice.

Antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" could be passed on to humans through undercooked meat, a government report has found.

The use of antibiotics in farming must be reduced because it represents a critical threat to public health, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance said.

Among the risks from widespread use of drugs in agriculture is that drug-resistant infections could be transferred from animals to humans eating undercooked meat.

rare steak

Consumption of antibiotics by animals is greater than that by humans in many countries around the world said Lord Jim O'Neill, former chief economist at Goldman Sachs.

This poses a risk that "superbugs" will develop and spread, whether through direct contact between humans and animals, consumption of undercooked meat or from animal waste.

A phased reduction of antibiotics in agriculture is recommended in the latest proposal by the review, suggesting countries could have agreed limits on their use over the next 10 years.

Lord O'Neill said: "I find it staggering that in many countries most of the consumption of antibiotics is in animals, rather than humans.

"This creates a big resistance risk for everyone, which was highlighted by the recent Chinese finding of resistance to colistin – an important last-resort antibiotic which has been used extensively in animals."

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He added: "As we've highlighted, most of the scientific research provides evidence to support curtailing antibiotic use in agriculture, it's time for policy makers to act on this.

"We need to radically reduce global use of antibiotics and to do this we need world leaders to agree to an ambitious target to lower levels, along with restricting the use of antibiotics important to humans."

The review is expected to present further proposals on how to deal with antimicrobial resistance early next year, PA reported.

Dr Helen Webberley, the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, told HuffPost UK Lifestyle: "This once again highlights the importance of sensible usage of antibiotics. The more we expose bacteria to antibiotics, the more they learn how to adapt and change to stop the antibiotic from killing them.

"Bacteria are very clever at making slight changes to their shell, or membranes or internal parts, which can stop the antibiotic from targeting the very part of the bacteria on which they work."

She added: "Antibiotics are widely used in farming, particularly in factory farming, where large numbers of animals are kept in unnatural circumstances and have reduced resistance to infection. Any animal that is treated with antibiotics and then goes on to enter the food chain to be consumed by humans, exposes us to the chemicals that they have been given.

"The danger is that the bacteria that cause food poisoning will become resistant to the antibiotics that are given to the animals, and then when the bug causes infections in humans, our antibiotics will no longer work.

"Antibiotics are cheap and very widely used, but the world would be a very unsafe place to live if they stopped working and simple infections, which we can currently protect against, would once again became life-threatening."

For those who are concerned about eating undercooked meat, a spokesperson from the FSA told HuffPost UK Lifestyle that "if meat is handled and cooked properly, the risk of catching superbugs from it is very low".

"Our advice on consuming meat remains unchanged. All pork and poultry should be cooked thoroughly so that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pinkness and any juices run clear," they said.

"Our long-standing advice on burgers prepared in the home says that they should be cooked thoroughly with no pink bits remaining. Steaks and other whole cuts of beef and lamb can be cooked rare, but like all other meats should be handled hygienically."