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Is that chicken you’re about to cook contaminated?

Chances are you have some chicken in your fridge or freezer, but Consumer Reports says you might be surprised to learn you may have been knowingly sold poultry that may be contaminated with potentially deadly germs.
Chances are you have some chicken in your fridge or freezer, but Consumer Reports says you might be surprised to learn you may have been knowingly sold poultry that may be contaminated with potentially deadly germs.

Chances are you have some chicken in your fridge or freezer, but Consumer Reports says you might be surprised to learn you may have been knowingly sold poultry that may be contaminated with potentially deadly germs.

“Poultry processors can legally distribute their products even if they know they may contain harmful bacteria,” said Rachel Rabkin-Peachman, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter.

And a new Consumer Reports investigation reveals how those lethal but legal germs can end up in our food supply.

“Bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter, which are often in raw or undercooked chicken and turkey, are two of the leading causes of bacterial foodborne illness in people,” Rabkin-Peachman said.

Together she says, those two bacteria kill about 450 people each year and make nearly 1.9 million people sick, with 28,000 ending up in the hospital.

According to Consumer Reports, the USDA allows 9.8% of the whole chickens it tests to be contaminated with salmonella. And when you look at chicken parts and ground chicken, the percentages are even higher.

The USDA says it set those standards based on “a risk-assessment process that estimates the salmonella and campylobacter percentages needed to meet national public health goals.”

The National Chicken Council, an industry trade group, says about 90% of chicken processing plants are “meeting and exceeding” present USDA standards for salmonella on whole chickens and chicken parts.

But Consumer Reports and other food safety advocates say that is still not enough, and that the USDA should strive for a zero-tolerance policy.

So, how can you make sure your family chicken dinner doesn’t make anyone sick? Consumer Reports recommends you:

  • Use an accurate meat thermometer to make sure your poultry is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165-degrees Fahrenheit
  • Always thaw your poultry in the fridge
  • Never wash your poultry in the sink as that could spread bacteria in your kitchen