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Finger Lickin' Good? Chicken, Bacteria too often Go Hand in Hand

By Admin on December 04, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The sky may not be falling, but maybe we should hear Chicken Little out. According to Consumer Reports, America still has a big problem with that little bird. To be more precise, Consumer Reports found a still much too high incidence of salmonella and campylobacter on fresh whole broilers purchased at stores nationwide. These two bacteria types are responsible for much of the foodborne illness we face.

The CDC estimates that salmonella and campylobacter from chicken and other sources effect 3.4 million Americans, sending 25,5000 to the hospital and killing as many as 500. The actual numbers of people sickened may be even higher however, as some do not seek care for their illness and even those who do, may not be accurately diagnosed. To make this issue a bit more worrisome, the CDC also reports that in about 20% of salmonella cases and about 55% of campylobacter cases, the bacteria have proved resistant to at least one antibiotic.

Fortunately for the chicken consuming public, Consumer Reports has been consistently testing store-bought chickens since 1998. Here are the results of Consumer Reports' most recent testing:

  • Campylobacter was in 62 percent of the chickens, salmonella was in 14 percent, and both bacteria were in 9 percent. Only 34 percent of the birds were clear of both pathogens. That's double the percentage of clean birds found in our 2007 report but far less than the 51 percent in our 2003 report.
  • Store-brand organic chickens had no salmonella at all, showing that it's possible for chicken to arrive in stores without that bacterium riding along. But as our tests showed, banishing one bug doesn't mean banishing both: 57 percent of those birds harbored campylobacter.
  • The cleanest name-brand chickens were Perdue's: 56 percent were free of both pathogens. This is the first time since we began testing chicken that one major brand has fared significantly better than others across the board. Most contaminated were Tyson and Foster Farms chickens. More than 80 percent tested positive for one or both pathogens.

The National Chicken Council responded to these results. In a statement issued November 30th, the NCC said, "Like all fresh foods, raw chicken may have some microorganisms present, but these are destroyed by the heat of normal cooking." Consumer Reports suggests consumers remain vigilante. CR recommends cooking chicken to at least 165° F, do not allow raw chicken or its juices to touch other food and wash hands thoroughly after handling the raw meat. Now, who's up for veggie burritos tonight?

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