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All About Food: Run a check on your chicken

January 21, 2014|By Terry Markowitz
  • A chicken dish at a local restaurant. Chicken has come under scrutiny recently because of food safety infractions that have caused food-borne illnesses.
A chicken dish at a local restaurant. Chicken has come… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

The latest edition of Food & Wine magazine declares that "fish is the new chicken." Good thing, because chicken, America's most popular protein, has come under scrutiny recently because of food safety infractions that have caused food-borne illnesses.

Two major producers, Tyson and Foster Farms, have been cited in publications lately. Consumer Reports did a test of chickens from different sources, including organic brands, and found 97% of the breasts tested contained harmful bacteria, including campylobacter, salmonella and e coli.

Furthermore, The New York Times says that 40% of the poultry-related illnesses treated in hospitals are antibiotic-resistant, and that only one in 25 people who get ill are actually reporting their illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 48 million people a year fall sick from eating tainted foods and that "more deaths were attributed to poultry than any other commodity."

The National Chicken Council responded by saying that 100 million servings are eaten each year and 99.99% are consumed safely. It also said that eliminating all naturally occurring bacteria is not feasible and maintains that the proper cooking of poultry, to 165 degrees, kills bacteria.

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The CDC also says that the presence of salmonella is common and acceptable in raw poultry with the proviso that it be properly cooked. However, some recent studies have shown that tougher strains can withstand the 165-degree threshold.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture can only alert the public to a problem but doesn't have the authority to recall a product. That is left to the discretion of the manufacturer.

Costco recently pulled 22,000 packages of rotisserie chicken and 951 containers of chicken soup, leg quarters and chicken salad, but neither Costco nor Foster Farms recalled the raw chicken sold to consumers. Tyson did a recall after seven people were sickened, according to Food Safety News.

It is interesting to note that Sweden records zero levels of bacteria in chicken. It is also notable that the USDA announced that it will now allow four facilities in China to process poultry raised and slaughtered in the United States, Chile or Canada and then export the cooked poultry to the United States, according to the Huffington Post.

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