Dirty birds - Even ‘premium’ chickens harbor dangerous bacteria
NEW YORK, Dec. 1, 2006 (www.consumerreports.org) - If you eat undercooked or mishandled chicken, our new tests indicate, you have a good chance of feeling miserable. CR’s analysis of fresh, whole broilers bought nationwide revealed that 83 percent harbored campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease.
That’s a stunning increase from 2003, when we reported finding that 49 percent tested positive for one or both pathogens. Leading chicken producers have stabilized the incidence of salmonella, but spiral-shaped campylobacter has wriggled onto more chickens than ever. And although the U.S. Department of Agriculture tests chickens for salmonella against a federal standard, it has not set a standard for campylobacter.
Our results show there should be. More than ever, it’s up to consumers to make sure they protect themselves by cooking chicken to at least 165° F and guarding against cross-contamination.
Think premium brands are safer? Overall, chickens labeled as organic or raised without antibiotics and costing $3 to $5 per pound were more likely to harbor salmonella than were conventionally produced broilers that cost more like $1 per pound.
Moreover, most of the bacteria we tested from all types of contaminated chicken showed resistance to one or more antibiotics, including some fed to chickens to speed their growth and those prescribed to humans to treat infections. The findings suggest that some people who are sickened by chicken might need to try several antibiotics before finding one that works.