Science and Tech


'Most' Retail Chicken Contaminated With Bacteria: Study

A study found harmful bacteria on 97 percent of common, grocery store chicken, including antibiotic-resistent superbugs.
Posted at 1:34 PM, Dec 19, 2013

Just months ago, a salmonella outbreak from chicken products was so serious, it sent double the usual amount of people infected to the hospital — almost 40 percent. Now, a new report shows an unsettling amount of bacteria in grocery store chicken.  

"A Consumer Reports study just out this morning finds that 97 percent of raw chicken breasts are contaminated with bacteria that could cause illness."

The study sampled 316 raw chicken breasts from common grocery stores across the United States. The chicken was tested for six strains of bacteria including salmonella, E. coli and staph. (Via Forbes)

Samples were taken from the major chicken brands — Tyson, Pilgrims, Sanderson Farms, Perdue — as well as "organic" products. The levels of bacteria were fairly even across the board.  (Via Consumer Reports)

But its not just the amount of bacteria that raises concern. Half of the samples tested positive for fecal contaminants that could cause urinary tract infections. Urvashi Rangan of Consumer Reports explains another cause for concern to CNN:

"Well there's more bacteria, there's also more antibiotic resistance. So half of the bacteria that we found — and this is the more concerning result — was resistant to three or more antibiotic classes." 

Just last week, the FDA announced a new policy that will limit the amount of antibiotics used on livestock for growth purposes, but critics say this isn't a big enough effort. According to The New York Times, "23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections."

OK, yes, this is pretty scary. But don't scrap your holiday menus just yet. 

There are healthy methods you can use to prepare chicken, including using a meat thermometer to ensure the meat is cooked all the way to 165 degrees. Rangan explains more:

"You want to use really careful practices with the chicken. You don't want to put your chicken in the sink and pour the faucet on it. You want to use a dedicated cutting board and put that right in the dishwasher."

The Consumer Reports researchers are calling for stronger antibiotic laws and more data collection from the FDA. For now, though, keep practicing the basics: wash your hands and kitchen surfaces, and don't trust raw meat.