Consumer Reports published – How safe is that chicken?
Among the findings:
• 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 we found in our 2007 report but far less than the 51 percent in our 2003 report.
• Among the cleanest overall were air-chilled broilers. About 40 percent harbored one or both pathogens. Eight Bell & Evans organic broilers, which are air chilled, were free of both, but our sample was too small to determine that all Bell & Evans broilers would be.
• 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.
Among all brands and types of broilers tested, 68 percent of the salmonella and 60 percent of the campylobacter organisms we analyzed showed resistance to one or more antibiotics.
Not too surprisingly the National Chicken Council took exception to the Consumer Reports article:
"Chicken is safe. Like all fresh foods, raw chicken may have some microorganisms present, but these are destroyed by the heat of normal cooking. Consumers are encouraged to follow the safe handling and cooking instructions printed on every package of fresh meat and poultry sold in this country.
"A much more comprehensive survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Salmonella and Campylobacter on fewer raw chickens than Consumer Reports. More important is the fact that USDA found that the levels of microorganisms present are usually very low. Consumer Reports failed to perform this analysis. The USDA survey also showed that poultry processing greatly improves the microbiological profile of raw chickens. In fact, the industry does an excellent job in providing safe, wholesome food to American consumers."
The Chicken Council’s defense – chicken is not as bacteria-contaminated as Consumer Reports says and its the consumers fault anyway. Really, is there any wonder why we do not make more progress on food safety?