It has been well over ten years since news of harmful bacteria in store bought chicken became mainstream knowledge. Earlier this year I wrote an article pointing out that Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria from chicken and other foods infect 3.4 million Americans, send 25500 to hospitals, and kill about 500; this information was from an early 2010 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
In May 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new rules that aim to reduce salmonella in broilers and turkeys, and also establish limits for campylobacter (for the first time!). The USDA aims to publish names of plants that don’t meet the revised standards for salmonella and will consider naming those that don’t meet the campylobacter standards.
In June 2011, the FDA recommended, but is not going to enforce, steps that would limit antibiotic use in chicken and other animals to reduce the amount of antibiotics humans consume. (Ingesting antibiotics in our food makes us resistant to antibiotics in general, so when they’re really “needed,” we have to have much higher doses which increases chances of tearing your gut, and many other fun health problems…)
These are nice steps towards making our foods safer, but they certainly don’t go far enough. Considering the following statistics published by Consumer Reports, these are clearly some worthless gestures initiated by an industry with deep pockets and no intention of cutting back their profits:
- Campylobacter bacteria was in 62% of the chickens
- Salmonella bacteria was in 14% of the chickens
- 34% were clear of both bacteria, in 2003 they reported that 51% were clear of both!
- Store brand organic chicken had no Salmonella, but 57% did had Campylobacter
- 68% of Salmonella, and 60% of Campylobacter bacterias showed resistance to one or more antibiotics
Both bacteria can cause nausea, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, and lead to the need for hospitalization. Campylobacter especially can be fatal.
What can you do? The main thing to keep in mind is that cooking the chicken to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit is thought to kill the bacteria. The safest thing to do is have a cooking thermometer and check your chicken.
You should also keep the juices of the uncooked chicken away from your hands, the counter, and other places that you can come in contact with.
Jan 2012 update
Not so new information about dioxins from the government points out that next to fish, the highest levels of dioxins are now found in eggs! Dioxins are carcinogens in the atmosphere that accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, including humans.