Scientists in Hong Kong have just discovered a strain of drug-resistant bacteria on pork imported from mainland China known as ”vancomycin-resistant enterococci,” or VRE. The superbug has only been found once before in China, in chicken exports bound for Japan, according to a study published July 19 in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
However, VRE is common in the US, where it first appeared in the 1980s. In the United States, where the meat industry uses 80% of the nation’s antibiotic supply on livestock, a government study released earlier this year found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 69% of pork chops and 55% of ground beef.
That doesn’t mean that China’s meat industry is necessarily much better, when it comes to antibiotics; China already has a “huge burden of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in livestock,” scientists from the University of Hong Kong wrote in the July 19 study. But there is little to suggest that the problem will be improved after Western techniques and expertise are brought into the country, and it could easily become worse with bigger, consolidated US-style farms where the animals are routinely dosed with antibiotics.
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