Salmonella, Campylobacter Found In 2/3rds Of Chicken

Consumer Reports is reporting that a new test of fresh, whole broiler chickens revealed most contained either <"">Salmonella and/or Campylobacter, dangerous and sometimes deadly food borne pathogens. The poultry was purchased in 22 states and two-thirds tested positive for the pathogens. The story appears in the January 2010 issue of Consumer Reports and is available for free viewing at

Salmonella and Campylobacter are among the top two culprits identified in reported food poisoning illnesses and deaths in the United States. Infection can lead to long-term and serious adverse health effects, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the lower back. Campylobacter infections can also lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a potentially paralyzing illness that can leave victims with mild to severe neurological damage, as well as meningitis. Both infections can be found in raw or undercooked poultry, among other foods.

Consumer Reports said it has been measuring contamination with these contagions in store-bought chickens since 1998, and while recent testing indicates a small improvement over three years ago, the findings reveal numbers that are too high. Of concern, most bacteria tested were resistant to at least one bacterium, said Consumer Reports. Antibiotic resistant infections are more difficult to treat.

“Consumers still need to be very careful in handling chicken, which is routinely contaminated with disease-causing bacteria,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Our tests show that campylobacter is widespread in chicken, even in brands that control for salmonella. While one name brand, Perdue, and most air-chilled chickens, were less contaminated than others, this is still a very dirty industry that needs better practices and tighter government oversight,” Sr. Rangan said, quoted Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports pointed out that while some chickens tested cleaner than others, its tests do not indicate that any one type or brand is consistently low in pathogens to recommend over any other.

Consumer Reports had an outside laboratory test 382 chickens purchased last spring from over “100 supermarkets, gourmet- and natural-food stores, and mass merchandisers in 22 states,” it said. The lab found, in part that:

Campylobacter was found in most—62 percent—and Salmonella in 14 percent of the chickens tested; both bacteria turned up in about nine percent of the chickens. About one-third tested negative for both pathogens.

About 60 percent of organic, “air-chilled” broilers—this poultry is refrigerated, sometimes misted, and not dipped in cold chlorinated water—tested negative for both pathogens.

Perdue tested the cleanest of the brand names tested, with 56 percent free of both pathogens, while Tyson and Foster Farms chickens were the most contaminated, with fewer than 20 percent free of either pathogen.

Store-brand organic chickens had no Salmonella; 43 percent of these had no Campylobacter.
Of brands and types, 68 percent of the Salmonella and 60 percent of the Campylobacter organisms tested were resistant to one or more antibiotics.

Combined, said Consumer Reports, Salmonella and Campylobacter sicken 3.4 million Americans, hospitalize 25,500, and kill about 500, citing the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) protection against chicken contamination, said Consumer Reports, which explained this protection mandates firms identify and work to eliminate potential contamination points. A USDA standard is in place requiring chicken producers test for Salmonella; no standard exists for Campylobacter.

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