Chicken isn't as safe as you might think, according to a study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine. Their analysis found that two-thirds of the 382 chickens bought from more than 100 food stores harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter.
Campylobacter and salmonella are the leading causes of foodborne illness, and each year they infect 3.4 million Americans, send 25,500 to hospitals, and kill about 500 people, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The diseases might be even more widespread, though, because many people don’t seek medical attention for their symptoms or aren’t screened for foodborne infections.
In order to minimize contamination, poultry processors follow a set of federally mandated procedures known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). The measures are followed in slaughterhouses and processing plants and require that companies state explicitly where contamination might occur and institute procedures to prevent, reduce, or eliminate it.
Government inspectors from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) monitor the HACCP plans of chicken companies and examine carcasses for problems. Plants that generate more than 12 salmonella-positive samples during 51 consecutive days of production fail to meet FSIS standards. The plant would be required by a FSIS review of the HACCP plan to fix any problems and might incur penalties.
Despite these regulations, Consumer Reports found the following in their recent study:
To safeguard against possibly harmful bacteria in chicken, the following food safety guidelines are recommended: