More than 90 percent of chicken breasts purchased from major retailers in the United States tested positive for potentially dangerous bacteria in a recent round of examinations, Consumer Reports found.
The company found that 97 percent of the chicken breasts it tested from every major brand were contaminated.
Consumer Reports is now cautioning its readers that almost none of the chicken sold at grocery stores and other major retailers is safe. Its testers discovered that chicken labeled “organic” or “antibiotic free” often also regularly tested positive for bacteria. It also offered a list of recommendations for fixing the problem.
Consumer Reports’ conclusions are based upon tests done on 316 chicken breasts gathered from a variety of retailers in 26 states.
Some of the frightening results found included:
- Nearly half the chicken checked (49.7 percent) tested positive for at least one known strain of multidrug resistant bacteria.
- 11.5 percent of the chicken tested positive for two or more types of multidrug resistant bacteria.
- Chicken from Perdue, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Tyson all contained worrisome levels of bacteria. Even those brands’ organic-labeled chicken contained bacteria.
- 65.2 percent of the chicken tested positive for E. coli.
Criticized USDA Inspection
Consumer Reports also delivered a scathing view of the USDA’s inspection program for chicken. It concluded that defects in the inspection program and the way in which chicken is processed allow contaminated chicken to reach the meat department.
Some of the major problems with the chicken production and inspection process include:
- The failure to ban the feeding of antibiotics to chickens for purposes other than treating sickness. As Off The Grid News reported, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a voluntary plan to phase this practice out.
- Antibiotics can be injected into chicken eggs before the birds hatch.
- It is not illegal to sell chicken contaminated with antibiotic-resistant salmonella bacteria. The USDA has no authority to take such chicken off the market. Congress must give the agency that authority.
- The USDA lacks the authority to use DNA testing to fingerprint or identify contaminated meat and recall all such meat from the market.
If all that wasn’t bad enough the situation could get much worse in the future. The USDA has plans to speed up chicken production and reduce the number of inspectors at poultry plants. Critics believe these plans could cause contaminated chicken to reach stores.
Consumer Reports listed a series of recommendations:
- “The FDA should prohibit antibiotic use in food animals except for the treatment of sick ones. To that end, Congress should pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.
- “The National Organic Program should eliminate the loophole allowing antibiotics to be used in the chicken eggs up until the first day of life in organic chicken broilers.
- “The USDA should classify strains of salmonella bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and known to have caused disease as “adulterants,” so that chickens tainted with those strains can’t be sold.
- “The USDA’s proposed rule to increase maximum line speeds and reduce the number of USDA inspectors at slaughter plants should be dropped.
- “Congress should give the USDA authority to recall meat and poultry products that are tied by DNA fingerprinting to disease outbreaks. Currently, it doesn’t have the authority to do so.
- “The USDA should speed up its efforts to set strict levels for allowable salmonella and campylobacter in chicken parts. The agency expects to put that proposal out for public review and feedback this year. We say that the standards can’t come soon enough.”
What You Can Do to Protect Your Family
Obviously waiting for Congress to act is not going to ensure your family’s safety. Fortunately there are some steps that you can take to ensure chicken safety. These steps include:
- Don’t eat chicken unless you cook it yourself or trust the person cooking it. Never assume that chicken sold in stores or restaurants is properly cooked.
- Always cook chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 Celsius) and make sure it is thoroughly cooked.
- Always use a meat thermometer on poultry because the temperature of the meat can be different that in the oven.
- Try to limit the time raw chicken is outside the refrigerator. If you buy poultry make it your last purchase at the store and take it right home and put it in the refrigerator.
- When you buy chicken keep it in a separate bag from other foods and make sure it is wrapped in a plastic bag even if it’s already covered in plastic.
- If possible, try to buy organic chicken directly from a farmer or raise your own to ensure safety.
- If you think chicken or any kind of poultry is contaminated, don’t eat it. Throw it away immediately.
It’s obvious that industrialized agriculture can no longer be trusted to keep our families safe. Many of us will have to find alternatives even if that means significantly changing our diets and our lifestyles.