Volume 4, Number 2—June 1998
Irradiation Pasteurization of Solid Foods
To the Editor: Osterholm and Potter have made a strong case for irradiation pasteurization of solid foods that enter kitchens as raw agricultural commodities, such as meat, poultry, and seafood (1). Irradiation pasteurization was advocated to protect against foodborne diseases caused by common pathogens such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Escherichia coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Toxoplasma (2). An additional rationale for irradiation pasteurization is bacterial resistance to antimicrobial drugs, a major health concern, which will undoubtedly increase in magnitude unless new approaches become available (3). The widespread use of antibiotics in animal husbandry may be the cause of some of this resistance, for example, in vancomycin-resistant enterococci associated with the agricultural use of glycopeptide antibiotics (4,5). Furthermore, resistance to glycopeptide antibitiotics can be transferred from enterococci to other gram-positive organisms, at least in the laboratory (6). Thus, resistant bacterial strains from animal sources may enter the human population through contaminated food without necessarily causing immediate disease but resulting in expanded human reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance through horizontal gene transfer (7). When such bacterial strains are subsequently transmitted to a susceptible person, serious disease could result, which would be exceedingly difficult to treat (8). Irradiation pasteurization of solid foods could reduce the magnitude of transfer of resistance genes through contaminated foods.
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- Gold HS, Moellering RC. Antimicrobial-drug resistance. N Engl J Med. 1996;335:1445–53.
- Bates J, Jordens JZ, Griffiths DT. Farm animals as a putative reservoir for vancomycin-resistant enterococcal infection in man. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1994;34:507–14.
- Van de Bogaard AE, Jensen LB, Stobberingh EE. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci in turkeys and farmers [letter]. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:1558–9.
- Leclerq R, Derlot E, Weber M, Duval J, Courvalin P. Transferable vancomycin and teicoplanin resistance in Enterococcus faecium. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1989;33:10–5.
- Davies J. Inactivation of antibiotics and the dissemination of resistance genes. Science. 1994;264:375–82.
- Swartz MN. Hospital-acquired infections: diseases with increasingly limited therapies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994;91:2420–7.