Scientists in Zurich have found bacteria, which are resistant to antibiotics, in salami. The researchers say these "super germs" could transfer their resistance to human pathogens, which would in turn become impervious to antibiotics - the main defence against these germs.
The research team at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich said the bacteria had proved resistant to 12 different antibiotics.
They said the germs had developed resistance genes, and that these could be transferred to several different types of bacteria, significantly increasing the danger to humans.
Commenting on the danger, Institute food hygienist, Franziska Schwarz, said she would avoid eating the salami "if I were ill or pregnant".
The research supports an earlier study which found that antibiotic resistant bacteria were present in unpasteurised milk. This suggests that the food was not contaminated during its processing, but instead that the bacteria came directly from the animals from which the food was derived.
The scientists at the Institute said this suggests that the bacteria developed resistance after coming into contact with antibiotics given to animals. Animals such as cattle are routinely given antibiotics, both to protect them from disease and to increase their milk output.
The scientists said their study provided compelling evidence that excessive use of antibiotics was significantly reducing their effectiveness and that controls were needed to curb their use.
They stressed, too, the need for a strict hygiene regime during food processing to destroy the bacteria before it enters the food chain.
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