WEEKLY HEALTH BULLETIN October 9, 2009
ANOTHER GOOD REASON TO AVOID SUPERMARKET MEATS – CLOSTRIDIUM DIFFICILE FOUND IN YOUR GROCER’S FREEZER
Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that causes life threatening infection, is now being found in a variety of supermarket meat products, here and abroad. The likely cause is contamination from the animals’ own feces, which survive intact through the slaughtering and processing stages into your grocer’s freezer.
C. Diff infects your digestive tract. Until a recently it has affected mainly the hospitalized elderly who have been placed on antibiotics. It can cause anything from diarrhea to the formation of a life threatening membrane in your colon and death.
C. DIFF CAN MAKE YOU REALLY SICK . . . EVEN IF IT DOESN’T KILL YOU
There have been deaths from C. diff infection in my community. I frequently encountered patients sick from it when I worked in our local hospital. Just last week I saw a new patient in my office who developed c.diff colitis last year after being treated for a dental abscess with a powerful antibiotic, Clindamycin. This antibiotic has a well known association with C. diff colitis. The patient did not receive protective probiotics, such as saccharomyces boulardii, and then developed a hard-to-treat infection which persisted for six months. It was cleared with the help of an infectious disease specialist and repeated doses of a powerful antibiotic, vancomycin, often used for this purpose.
Over the last few years an increasing number of people of all ages from the community have required hospitalization with C. diff infection. The source of infection has been unclear, although common acid blocking proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) for heartburn and reflux disease and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) used to treat arthritis have been implicated. The regular use of both of these drug types disturbs normal gut function, so this is not surprising.
A NEW STRAIN FOUND IN SUPERMARKETS
Studies have uncovered the presence of a hypervirulent strain of C. diff known as ribotype 078 in the commercial meat supply, including products labeled as requiring no additional cooking.
Investigators from the University of Arizona in Tucson found C.diff in 42% of 88 retail meat products during a three month period. Of those tested, 73% contained the 078 form and 23% contained the 023 form, also associated with community acquired disease. Meats tested included ground beef, ham and sausage, some of which required no additional cooking.
A second study conducted in Guelph, Ontario, found contamination of retail meats that was highest during the winter months.
HALF A MILLION SICK PEOPLE A YEAR . . . AND GROWING
C. diff makes a half million Americans sick annually. Every year the epidemic grows by 10%, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. From 1999 to 2004 the number of C.diff deaths recorded shot up over 400%, from 1500 to over 7000. C. diff infection in the community does not require prior exposure to antibiotics and affects people of all ages.
Although C. diff in meats has not been definitively linked to disease and death in the community, prudence should dictate the avoidance of supermarket meat products.
I also recommend you avoid gambling with the regular use of PPI and NSAID drugs, which are associated with a host of health problems, including 20,000 plus deaths a year from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by NSAIDs, a human cost mainstream medicine appears to be willing to rationalize away.
How many Americans will be killed by C. diff in meat products before the authorities take responsible precautionary action?
PREVENTION IS THE BEST STRATEGY. STOP BUYING SUPERMARKET MEATS.
This latest data on contaminated meat products in the supermarket freezer section reinforces the need to avoid these products altogether. Instead, know where your meat comes from and stick with local sources. This way, you control of your food supply, not the impotent government or some large, irresponsible corporation. Pasture fed beef, for example, has a much healthier nutrient profile than the corn fed product, which is also laced with antibiotic and pesticide residue.
C. diff infection from the community may not result in diarrhea, but looks like appendicitis, with severe abdominal pain. The best known probiotic with activity against C. diff is saccharomyces boulardii, found in a variety of widely available products.
Data as reported in INTERNAL MEDICINE NEWS September 15, 2009
Alan Inglis MD
American Country Doctor