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The nation is making little to no headway in preventing bacteria-laden chicken from landing in U.S. grocery stores and sickening thousands of Americans annually, with Consumer Reports finding in a recent test that one-third of ground chicken samples contained salmonella.
Nearly 1.4 million Americans are infected with salmonella each year, including 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths, with food the major source of the illnesses, according to federal health officials. And more than 20% of salmonella illnesses stem from eating tainted poultry, which “remains a significant food safety concern in the U.S.,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) last month said it is rethinking its approach to salmonella in poultry in light of newly released research. The research found that standards implemented in 2016 significantly reduced salmonella in chicken, but not salmonella-related illnesses related to eating poultry.
An increase in antimicrobial resistant strains is part of the problem, according to the findings published by the International Journal of Food Microbiology and released last week by FSIS. The agency is now reviewing whether it needs to change its strategy, and plans to hold a public hearing on the issue later in the year, it stated.
The agency’s review comes amid new findings about poultry from Consumer Reports, which on Friday said it detected salmonella in a third, or 23, of the 75 samples of ground chicken tested.
The nonprofit consumer watchdog group found no difference between organic and conventionally raised birds, with no particular brand standing out as better or worse than others.
“Salmonella in ground chicken is more common than it should be,” James Rogers, director of food safety research and testing at CR, stated. “This is not an isolated or contained problem.”
Most people who get ill from salmonella have diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.
Consumer Reports advises grocery shoppers to keep raw meats in a disposable bag, separate from other food, to reduce the risk of contamination, and not to rinse raw meat, as that could spread bacteria around. Chicken should be cooked to 165° F.