Food Awareness

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are on the rise in many meat products

I some times find it very difficult to navigate the isles of the grocery store, I get overwhelmed by choice, and spend too much time reading ingredient labels. And now I will have an even more difficult time, while trying to navigate the meat section. A recent report by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System titled the 2010 Retail Meat Report, notes that the number of instances where either the percentage of bacteria that are resistant, or the complexity of the resistance, is rising. The numbers are pretty surprising, for example Salmonella from 43% of chicken breast isolates were resistant to more that 3 antimicrobial classes, and E. coli from 52% of ground turkey was found to be resistant to ampicillin, which is up from 31% in 2002. The issue of antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing public health threats, and one of the most effective ways to curb the increasing degree and complexity of resistance is to eliminate all inappropriate use of antibiotics – in medicine and agriculture. In response to this, the FDA has launched a voluntary plan to phase out the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Farm animals consume far more antibiotics than do people, in part because producers want to keep their animals healthy, but also because antibiotics are routinely marketed and given as a growth promoter. A simple solution to this problem might be to buy organic, The USDA created an organic seal to help consumers identify foods that have been grown, harvested, and processed according to national standards which include restrictions on amounts and residues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.  However finding organic meat isn’t always easy or affordable.

With all this discussion of meat and antibiotics, it is comforting to know you can just avoid the hassle and grab a salad. Sadly, there is hassle with salads too.

The many possible routes for bacteria and other goodies to enter the food supply.

Aside from their inability to win you friends, salads, specifically the pre-washed mixed greens, can contain Salmonella or E.coli O157:H7, and result in you getting very sick. Washing is an effective line of defense against the possible microbial onslaught, and in my opinion the benefits of a salad outweigh the possible risk.

After navigating the minefield of meat and vegetables, it is only appropriate to reward yourself with a treat, perhaps something inspired from the blog Kizmet Cupcakes. But maybe you are trying to exercise some willpower and want to avoid anything too sweet. Well one way to increase your willpower would be to use your non-dominant hand for routine tasks (*note this might not work for lefties, who are already too awesome). However, there is something to be said for indulging in sweets like chocolate, instead of something good for you, like a radish. The chocolate-radish choice came from a 1998 study described below.

In case the video doesn’t work, briefly, participants were kept in a room that smelled of freshly baked chocolate cookies, were shown actual cookies and other chocolate treats- but only some of the participants got to eat the chocolate, the others were asked to eat radishes. After the bait-and-switch, the participants were given a persistence-testing puzzle. The results were immediately noticeable: those who ate radishes made far fewer attempts and devoted less than half the time solving the puzzle compared to the chocolate eaters. The conclusion from the study was that those who had to resist the sweets and force themselves to eat the radishes could no longer find the will to fully engage in another torturous task, they were too tired. Suggesting for the first time, that self-control is a general strength that is used across different types of tasks, and it can be depleted. So you can see that by choosing the radish, you might be too tired to perform other tasks during the day, so go ahead and indulge.

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