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America's Favorite Meat Is Also One of Its Most Lethal Commodities

Food

Grocery shoppers probably assume the food on display is safe to take home, but in the poultry aisle, that simple assumption could lead people directly into the emergency room.

"More deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity," according to an analysis of outbreaks from 1998 through 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Consumer Reports' recent analysis of more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at stores across the U.S. found potentially harmful bacteria in 97 percent of the chicken, including organic brands.

Consumer Reports' findings were set in motion after the national salmonella outbreak that were linked to three Foster Farms chicken plants. In that case 389 people were infected, and 40 percent of them were hospitalized—double the usual percentage in most outbreaks linked to salmonella, reports the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

Forty-eight million people fall sick every year from eating food tainted with salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli and other contaminants, and "more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity," according to an analysis of outbreaks from 1998 through 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite the data, chicken remains America's favorite meat with 83 pounds being purchased per capita annually.

Here's what you should know before buying your next package of chicken, according to OCA:

  • It's unrealistic to expect the uncooked chicken one buys won't contain any potentially harmful bacteria. That's one reason shoppers are advised to prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food and to cook it to at least 165°F. Yet some bacteria are more worrisome than others as OCA's latest tests produced troubling findings. More than half of the samples contained fecal contaminants, with about half of them harboring at least one bacterium that was resistant to three or more commonly prescribed antibiotics.

  • Public health officials say the resistance to antibiotics is a major concern and in September the CDC released a landmark report outlining the dire threat it poses to one's health. Antibiotic-­resistant infections are linked to at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. If antibiotic-­resistant bacteria continue their spread, it could lead to deadly infections after routine surgery or even a seemingly innocuous cut because the drugs that doctors prescribe will have lost their effectiveness.

  • Further OCA tests showed that resistant bacteria are commonly found in chicken at your local grocery store, like the salmonella strains found during the Foster Farms outbreak. 

Refer to the Consumer Reports video below for additional coverage on the issue:

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD and HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.

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