Every year, Americans buy approximately 83 pounds of chicken per capita. With a country that’s so crazy for poultry, you would think the consumers would hold the producers accountable, demanding only the safest chicken possible. But according to a new analysis from Consumer Reports, nearly all chicken (97% tested) is tainted with harmful bacteria, and then some.
Consumer Reports tested more than 300 chicken breasts purchased at stores across the country and found nearly all of them to be contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria.
A press release from the organization says their tests revealed fecal contaminants, and about half of the chicken tested had at least one bacterium resistant to three or more common antibiotics. This is troublesome.
Of course, the chicken producers would remind you that most bacteria can be effectively eliminated with proper handling and cooking. Heating meat to at least 165 degrees and reducing the risk of cross-contamination ensures you won’t get sick. But, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria discovered by Consumer Reports is concern-worthy whether you’re cooking your meat right or not.
Just a few months ago, the CDC released a report cautioning against the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections. Such infections are linked to an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year in the US. These same bacteria, say Consumer Reports, are being sold in chicken across the country.
“Our tests reveal that superbugs can be found in about half of the chicken we tested, from stores across the country. Our test results found that 49.7 percent of our samples contained at least one multidrug-resistant bacterium, and 11.5 percent had at least two. (Multidrug-resistant bacteria are defined as those that are resistant to three or more classes of drugs that they would normally be susceptible to”…”The bacteria we found were significantly more resistant to classes of antibiotics approved by the FDA for chicken production than for those not approved for such use.”
The results of this research are particularly interesting considering the FDA and CDC fight against raw milk, a product that is many times over more safe than chicken.
The CDC itself admits, “[M]ore deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity.”
The research is a firm reminder that everything you purchase in the grocery store should be treated with care, as if it is contaminated. If you insist on purchasing chicken, make sure you are cooking it correctly and taking care that it not touch other surfaces in your kitchen until it is fully cooked. Also, to avoid meat that’s been treated with antibiotics, seek out organic chicken or develop a relationship with a local farmer.