Raw pork and chicken meat sold in supermarkets found to be contaminated, study

A new study conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has found that raw pork and poultry meat sold in supermarkets are contaminated with bacterial pathogens, posing a risk of foodborne illnesses to consumers.

The study, which raises serious food safety concerns for white meat consumers, found that both local and international supermarkets in the country sell contaminated chicken and pork.

The research, conducted by scientists from the World Animal Protection, Center for Microbiology Research, and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), also found that antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) pathogens are on the rise in Kenya, which is a new public health concern in the country, following recent studies.

According to the study, the contamination could be through the extensive use of antibiotics for preservation and growth promotion in chickens and pigs, which has been a major factor in the development of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria with zoonotic potential.

The development of antibiotic resistance to broad-spectrum medications such as ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, and cefepime, which are all on the WHO list of critically important antimicrobials for human medicine, is a growing concern.

The study, however, did not establish the source of microbial contamination.

Nevertheless, the researchers said that enforcing high standards of food hygiene and sanitation throughout the supply chain is crucial to prevent the introduction of bacteria to food and the subsequent spread of foodborne pathogens.

The study also noted a high prevalence of bacteria often considered parasitic, such as E. coli at 48.4 percent and Klebsiella spp at 19.1 percent, and foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella spp at 17.8 percent and Staphylococcus spp at 6.7 percent.

The analysis revealed that resistance to essential classes of antibiotics, such as cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, and fluoroquinolones, is not high, but the resistance to tetracycline and penicillin, which are commonly used antibiotics in animal agriculture, is worrying.

The study suggests that the resistance might be increasing over time.

The researchers called for responsible antibiotic use in the poultry and chicken farming sectors to reduce antimicrobial resistance.

They also suggested that there is a need for retailing outlets to adhere to hygienic principles when handling and processing pork and chicken meat products to reduce the potential risk of microbial contamination. The contamination could have its origins at the farm level during the slaughtering process or packaging.

Dr. Victor Yamo, one of the authors of the study, said, “The study’s findings highlight the urgent need for enhanced surveillance and control measures for bacterial pathogens in the Kenyan food chain, particularly in light of the rising rates of antimicrobial resistance. The data should also raise awareness among consumers about the importance of hygienic practices in handling, storing, and cooking raw meat to prevent foodborne illnesses.”

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