Unsafe Chicken

Food-borne illnesses from chicken and other sources kill about 500 American a year and sicken more than three million-just how many more is uncertain, as lots of people never seek medical attention.

Consumer Reports just tested chicken for disease-causing bacteria, and the results are troubling.

Alexis Sarti was a cross-country runner in high school. But four years ago, she suffered extensive nerve damage after eating at a California restaurant.

"I still have problems. I'll never be able to run or walk very far." said Sarti.

Alexis sued the restaurant, alleging her food was cross-contaminated with bacteria from raw poultry.

Consumer Reports tested nearly 400 whole broiler chickens at an outside lab, checking for contamination. The chickens were purchased at more than a hundred stores across the country.

"We tested for the two leading causes of food-borne illness-campylobacter and salmonella. Only 34% of the chickens had neither bacteria." said Kim Kleeman of Consumer Reports.

Included in the tests, leading chicken brands as well as store and organic brands.

The unappetizing results-62% of the chicken contained campylobacter, 14% contained salmonella, and 9% had both bacteria.

"Of the name brands, more than 80% of the Tyson and Foster Farms chicken had one or both bacteria. Perdue was the cleanest-56% was free of the bacteria." said Kleeman.

Overall, air-chilled organic broilers were among the cleanest. But no matter what chicken you buy, you need to take precautions.

Buy chicken that's well wrapped. And pick from the bottom of the case, where it should be the coolest. Also, put in a produce bag so you don't cross-contaminate other foods.

Once home, use a cutting board that's just for raw poultry and meat.

And after prepping chicken, use hot, soapy water and paper towels to wash and dry anything you-and the raw chicken-might have touched.

Alexis Sarti won her lawsuit and says she hopes no one will ever have to endure what she's been through.

Consumer Reports says other important measures to take with chicken-use a meat thermometer to be sure it's cooked thoroughly-to at least 165 degrees.

And if you're not going to prepare chicken within one to two days, freeze it.


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