If you buy ground chicken, beware: nearly one in three packages of this meat contained salmonella bacteria when tested by Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports recently tested 351 packages of ground beef, pork, chicken and turkey purchased from grocery stores nationwide.
The non-profit publication calls what it found “alarming”:
- In addition to finding salmonella in a third of ground chicken packages, the bacteria also appeared in a few samples of ground beef, pork and turkey.
- All Salmonella strains detected in ground meats were resistant to at least one antibiotic.
- In a sample of Kroger brand ground beef purchased in Seattle, CR detected a strain of E. coli so dangerous that the publication quickly informed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This led to a recall of 28,000 pounds of meat.
In an article about CR’s findings, James E. Rogers, director of food safety research and testing at CR and former USDA official, says:
“Currently, preventing disease from contaminated meat falls too heavily on consumers, not industry or regulators. It shouldn’t be that way, and it shouldn’t be.
According to Consumer Reports, eating contaminated ground meat is more likely to make you sick than eating contaminated whole pieces of meat.
Most of the contamination from whole cuts stays on the surface of the meat, making it easier to kill during the cooking process. In contrast, ground meat contamination mixes with all the meat.
A packet of minced meat also comes from a combination of several animals. Thus, a contaminated animal can have an impact on several kilos of minced meat.
The frequency with which CR has found salmonella in ground chicken underscores the widespread nature of meat contamination.
Salmonella was found in 23 of 75 samples tested, with all brands largely equally likely to be contaminated, and with no discernible difference between organic and conventional chickens.
According to Rogers:
“The message: Salmonella in ground chicken is more common than it should be. This is not an isolated or contained problem.
How to avoid getting sick from spoiled meat
For now, it’s up to consumers to make sure they don’t get sick from eating such meat. According to Consumer Reports, the best ways to avoid contamination are:
- Keep the meat separate. At the grocery store, keep raw meats in a disposable bag and away from other foods to avoid contamination. At home, store raw meat in a bag or bowl in the refrigerator.
- Use ground meat quickly. It should be cooked within two days of purchase or frozen for later.
- Never defrost meat on the counter. Bacteria can multiply under these circumstances. Instead, thaw it in the refrigerator.
- Wash your hands often. When preparing meat, wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after preparation.
- Cook the meat well. Check it with a meat thermometer. Ground beef and pork should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Poultry of all types should be cooked to 165 degrees, and roast beef, beef steaks, pork roasts and pork chops should be cooked to 145 degrees.
- Store leftovers quickly. Don’t leave any cooked food unrefrigerated for more than two hours — or one hour if you’re outside and it’s 90 degrees or hotter — after removing it from the stove, oven, or grill.
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