Dangers of Raw Chicken

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    We know that pathogens like E-coli and Salmonella thrive on raw chicken meat, but according to a recent study, harmful bacteria are more prevalent than previously thought. Consumer Reports collected 316 samples of chicken meat across the nation to find that 97 percent of these products contain microbes in conventional and organic brands.

    The meat was collected from 26 states stores of many types. And some of the most common bacteria found included campylobacter, Salmonella, and staphylococcus Aureus. There was also E. coli and enterococcus, which can normally be found in fecal matter, and can cause blood and urinary infections. Like humans, these diseases are sequestered in the intestines of chickens, but they are not harmful to the birds as long as they remain in their systems. As these chickens are slaughtered, however, the bacteria can make it to the surface of chicken meat. And the bacteria is spread as chickens wallow in their own poop in cramped quarters.

    Another bacteria spotted was klebsiella, bacteria that is normally found in the stomachs of humans, but can cause pneumonia if contracted externally.

    Consumer Reports also released the percentages of each bacterium strained discovered:

    "Enterococcus was the most common bacterium we found, occurring in 79.8 percent of our samples. Next was E. coli, in 65.2 percent of them; campylobacter, 43 percent; klebsiella pneumoniae, 13.6 percent; salmonella, 10.8 percent, and staphylococcus aureus, 9.2 percent."

    252 conventional brands were tested, along with 64 brands that were labeled antibiotic free or organic. Almost none of the brands were free of bugs, and there was no difference between organic and conventional farming.

    And most importantly, over 49 percent of the chicken contained drug-resistant strains of bacteria, with over 11 percent containing two or more antibiotic-resistant strains.

    Drug Resistant Bacteria

    During the 1940s, farmers noticed that chickens grew much faster with the inclusion of antibiotics. From thereon, it became standard practice for many farmers to inject chickens with growth hormones and antibiotics to promote healthy poultry, and to also ensure they grow at a fast rate before the slaughter.

    The problem is that giving chickens these drugs only gives time for bacteria to evolve and develop immunity to the most advanced medicines on the market. The drugs will kill off most colonies of bacteria, but a few will survive, only resulting in stronger bugs ready for the next round of injections. As a result, these super bacterial strains end up in poultry consumed by humans. Since these new immune microbes are resistant to the most advanced drugs, there is essentially no cure to simple illnesses such as salmonella or enterococcus.

    The only way to protect yourself from drug-resistant bacteria is to look for labels that specifically state the non-inclusion of antibiotics. You can normally find these types of chickens in certain sections of your grocery store. In my area, I can find them at Ingles or Kroger, but this may differ based on your region.

    There has been legislation introduced in the House that would regulate how much antibiotics can be used in poultry, but these new rules have been fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical and poultry industries.

    Safe Preparation

    While these big industries are not as concerned with these new forms of bacteria, there are some things you can do on your own to remain safeguarded. There is always a danger in handling raw chicken, but you can remain unscathed with careful cleaning and washing. Be aware of any surfaces or handles you may touch when washing your hands, and clean with an antibacterial soap. The bacteria on any surface can survive for hours, sometimes days. Cooking the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees will kill any bacteria. Using a meat thermometer will ensure safe and proper cooking.

    According to Dr. James Johnson of University of Minnesota, merely touching plastic or ingesting small of bacteria can lead to serious illness.

    This information is not meant to scare the public, and it already confirms what we knew about raw chicken. But it is an interesting insight into how chickens are raised for commercial consumption, and how extra careful we need to be the next time we fix our favorite chicken recipes.

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