Trent Rowe reported yesterday on about the disturbing prevalence of campylobacter on chicken purchased at retail. 

Most of the chickens we buy in supermarkets are contaminated with Salmonella and/or Campylobacter bacteria. They make us sick.

Consumer Reports checked 382 chickens from 100 stores around the country and found the bacteria in about two-thirds of the birds.

Only 34 percent of the birds had neither bugs.

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention show that the bacteria from food sources infect 3.4 million Americans a year, resulting in 25,500 hospital cases and 500 deaths.


Unfortunately, odds are, the uncooked chicken you’ve got in your refrigerator or freezer at home is contaminated with something that can make you very sick, or kill you if you’re a particularly susceptible person.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Campylobacter and chicken, just like E. coli O157 and beef, is not a bacteria found in the animal’s muscle tissues.  Chickens and cows alike harbor the bugs that can make us sick in their gastrointestinal tract.  So, just like E. coli and beef, the problem boils down to food manufacturers keeping feces off of edible meats. 

This is exactly what the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is the branch of USDA responsible for meat, eggs, and poultry, is trying to achieve with its newly adopted performance standards in chickens and turkeys.  Even though we won’t get to zero, it seems like the industry should be able to lower the contamination level from "most of the birds you buy are contaminated."