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Contaminated Chicken

Contaminated Chicken

CREATED Dec 19, 2013

If you eat chicken, heads up. Consumer Reports' tests of more than 300 raw chicken breasts revealed 97 percent harbored bacteria that can potentially make you sick.

On American dinner tables, chicken is the most popular meat. But Consumer Reports' tests of more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at stores across the country found potentially harmful bacteria in nearly all the samples.

"We tested the chicken for six bacteria, including salmonella and campylobacter, which are common causes of food poisoning, and E. coli and enterococcus, which are typical measures of fecal Contamination," Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D. said.

More than half of the chicken breasts were tainted with E. coli and enterococcus.

And all the major brands tested — Perdue, Tyson, Sanderson Farms, and Pilgrim's — contained worrisome bacteria, as did smaller brands and packages labeled "organic" or "no antibiotics."

"Most troubling, when we looked at all of the chicken breasts we tested, about half harbored at least one bacterium that was resistant to three or more common families of antibiotics," Dr. Rangan added.

Rick Schiller knows the dangers. He wound up in the hospital with severe abdominal pain after eating chicken contaminated with salmonella.

"I thought I wasn't going to make it there for a little bit. I was that sick. I was so sick I couldn't move around, I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to lay there," he said.

Consumer Reports says when it comes to preparing chicken, you can't be too careful.

"Our tests did not reveal any better choice, despite some differences among brands and types. You really want to make sure to cook chicken until it reaches 165 degrees in the center," Dr. Rangan concluded.

It's also important to wash your hands well after handling raw chicken. And don't wash raw chicken under the faucet. That can spread bacteria and increase your risk of getting sick.

The Food and Drug Administration has just issued voluntary new guidelines that would limit the way farmers can use antibiotics in chicken. Consumer Report says it's a good first step but much more needs to be done.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.