Half Of Supermarket Chicken Harbors Superbugs, Consumer Reports Finds
Rick Schiller describes himself as a “super-healthy dude,” who practices taekwondo and rarely misses work.
The thought that he could be leveled by a piece of chicken had never crossed his mind, said Schiller, of San Jose, Calif. Yet that’s just what happened in September, when a contaminated chicken thigh landed him in the hospital with excruciating pain and a dangerous fever.
“It was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life,” Schiller said. “It’s a blessing I’m still alive.”
The Foster Farms salmonella outbreak that struck Schiller came shortly after Consumer Reports purchased chicken from stores around the country for an investigation. One of the packages turned out to be associated with the outbreak, which sent 40 percent of its victims to hospitals — about double the rate usually seen in a salmonella scare. Some experts said they think antibiotic resistance may be at least partially responsible for the unusual severity.
Consumer Reports’ findings, published on Thursday, underscore the potential danger to Americans posed by an apparently high rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the poultry aisle. Microbes that can resist multiple drugs lurked in about half of the more than 300 samples of raw chicken breasts tested by the consumer organization. Nearly all the chicken, regardless of brand or label, harbored at least one of six potentially harmful bacteria including E. coli and salmonella.
“The stuff can even hang out on the outside of the package,” said Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “We’re talking about serious potential for problems.”