America's Favorite Meat Is Also One of Its Most Lethal Commodities
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.
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:
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
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