Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Meat, antibiotics, and bacteria
Name: Amber.
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A 


Question:
I would like to do my science project on antibiotics and bacteria. First I would like to know if they feed high doses of antibiotics to cattle before they were taken to the meat factory. I was told that they may have done this back in the 50's. The idea was to keep the cattle healthy as well as the people that ate the meat. Second, what are the names of the most common bacteria that cause illness in humans? I would like to test the effects of cooking meat that have antibiotics in their tissues. By extracting the juices from the meat and exposing it to bacteria cultures this will determine the proper temperature to cook meat not to destroy the antibiotics. What do you think? Would this be a good science project? Thank you in advance for any information that you send.



Replies:
Interesting. First, the use of antibiotics and hormones on livestock is frowned upon (don't quite know if there are actually laws against it, but I would think there would be..) Drugs and foreign compounds introduced into the animals have the desired effect, of course -- the meat is relatively free of bacteria, the meat may be leaner as a result of hormone treatments or the milk may have a higher protein content, or whatever, but they also often have undesirable side-effects in humans who actually consume them. So I would frown upon trying to use heat-denaturation experiments unless you're ready to ensconce yourself in a research project spanning several years, as you first have to find meat that has been treated in this way -- waste of time if you try to do something like an Ames test with meat extract from a drug-free cow. But to address the rest of your question, I might suggest trying this instead: test to see if you can find the necessary minimum cooking temp to kill existing bacteria -- sort of like restaurant inspectors do. This would be much easier, and you don't have to worry about getting "negative meat." Do a control by culturing a sample of uncooked meat for bacteria, and then cook the same type of meat (from the same source, if possible) at different temperatures and culture them for bacteria.

As for the types of bacteria which can cause illness, I assume you mean food-borne pathogens -- there are literally zillions of different bacteria, listed:

Okay, bacteria... ummm, well, the disease botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum, a common bacteria found in the soil which can grow in canned foods, particularly, if the canning process is not correctly done. Salmonella is a more common and less serious affliction caused by several varieties of the Salmonella bacterium, found in all egg-containing products -- thus anything with eggs in it should be cooked thoroughly and refrigerated well at all times, or (as my ecology teacher from high school once told me) you'll be doing the "bivvy in the privy" for a lengthy time. Hepatitis A can be found sometimes in prepared foods, if the person who prepared the food is infected and didn't wash his or her hands well beforehand. Of course, there was a big outbreak on the West coast of Escherechia coli (a variety which inhabits cows, not man), and that is also something which must be guarded against. As previously noted, the best way to guard against problems with bacteria in food is to cook your food thoroughly and place them in containers appropriate for their storage, refrigerating or preserving the food properly and disposing of it when necessary. That enough?

--WORDSWORTH



Click here to return to the Biology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory