Chicken Scare: Is Bacteria on the Menu in Your House Tonight?

Warning: Preparing raw chicken and eating undercooked chicken may be more hazardous to your health than you think. That’s according to a soon-to-be released large-scale study from 
Consumer Reports, the independent non-profit consumer watchdog organization.

Consumer Reports purchased 316 raw chickens from local grocery stores around the country and had their food safety toxicologists test the poultry for the presence of bacteria. Ninety-seven percent tested positive for harmful bacteria, including salmonella, and E. coli. And close to half  of the raw chickens were found to have one or more of the six different types of bacteria they were testing for, cites a release from the organization highlighting some of the findings.

And if that’s not enough to ruffle your feathers, half of the chickens were identified as containing bacteria resistant to antibiotics, including strains of the bacteria staphylococcus aureus. The full report, “The High Cost of Cheap Chicken,” will be featured in the February 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine and website.

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Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports’ Executive Director of Food Safety and Sustainability said: “Our tests show consumers who buy chicken breast at their local grocery stores are very likely to get a sample that is contaminated and likely to get a bug that is multi-drug resistant.”

“It appears that there’s a connection between an increase in antibiotics being fed to livestock and an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria,” says KnowMore’s Registered Dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade.

So should we all be ditching chicken for tofu? Not necessarily, says  Palinski-Wade: “To help lessen your risk of exposure to such bacteria, select poultry/livestock that have not be treated with antibiotics.”

Just as critical, she says, is taking extreme care when handling raw chicken by following these steps:

ALWAYS cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria.

NEVER rinse chicken before preparing it. Studies have found that this doesn’t do much in the way of removing bacteria, and only serves to contaminate the sink, sponge and other areas with bacteria.

ALWAYS wash your hands in hot water with soap for at least 20 seconds immediately after handling raw or frozen chicken and before touching anything else.

NEVER use the same cutting board to chop up chicken and non-meats such as veggies.

ALWAYS clean the cutting board with hot water and soap water to insure bacteria doesn’t hang around. Place in the dishwasher for a double-dose of cleaning. If you have a sanitizing dial on your dishwasher, make sure to use it.

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