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Infection research within organic bred pigs

Animals reared in natural, outdoor conditions without modern drugs may not necessarily yield healthier meat according to research published in the New Scientist.

Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus tested US pigs for antibodies - telltale signs of infection - to pathogens that can also affect humans. They found traces of Salmonella in 39 per cent of pigs raised in standard indoor pens and routinely given antibiotics, but in 54 per cent of organic pigs raised outdoors without the drugs.

They also found traces of the parasite Toxoplasma, carried by cats and other animals, in 1 per cent of conventional pigs but 7 per cent of free-range animals.

Furthermore, the US team found two organic pigs with signs of infection with Trichinella, a roundworm that can cause chronic disease and even kill when people eat undercooked pork. Trichinella is nearly eradicated in livestock in the the US and Europe, though it persists in wildlife. Finding it in two pigs of the 600 tested is 23 times its average frequency in US pigs.

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• New Scientist

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