Humans, like all living organisms ranging from heads of lettuce to herds of cattle, are host to millions of bacteria. Strains can be passed from animal to animal. Bacteria in manure on fields can blow in the wind or percolate into the water supply. They can travel easily, living on meats and vegetables, on countertops and in gyms.
Our natural defenses allow us to carry bacteria in our guts, mouths and on our skin without developing infections—until injury or disease weakens those defenses. Normally, a regular Staph infection can be easily treated. But today’s methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—whose symptoms often include a painful boil—may require multiple antibiotics. So make sure to:
Keep it Clean
Always be careful when handling raw meats and be aware of what they touch. Use separate cutting boards. Wash reusable grocery bags, dish towels, kitchen counters, plates, knives and utensils with hot soapy water.
Heat can kill bacteria so the best defense is to cook to the proper temperature (165°F for chicken, 160°F for ground meat, 145°F for beef and pork steaks). Avoid raw milk (the pasteurization process kills Listeria) and wash or cook produce well.
Though resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, have also been found on animals that don’t receive antibiotics, you can minimize your risk and encourage farms to cut back on antibiotics by shopping for antibiotic-free meats.