Study says much of US chicken unsafe, USDA disagrees

US - Eighty-three percent of chicken sold in U.S. grocery stores may contain bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, a consumer group said on Monday, 34 percentage points higher than the rate it found three years ago.
calendar icon 5 December 2006
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Critics, however, said the study by Consumer Reports suffered from flaws that included an unreliably small number of samples. A U.S. Agriculture Department spokesman called the report "junk science."

Consumer Reports said tests on 525 chickens -- including samples from leading brands Perdue, Pilgrim's Pride Inc.(PPC.N: Quote, Profile , Research) and Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN.N: Quote, Profile , Research) -- showed most of the poultry had campylobacter or salmonella, two of the leading causes of food-borne diseases. A test conducted in 2003 showed 49 percent of the birds had at least one of the bacteria.

"We think it's really startling," said Jane Halloran, a policy director for Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. "It's a very significant deterioration in food safety."

No major U.S. chicken brand fared better in the study than the others, but Tyson had the lowest salmonella level and the highest rate of campylobacter. Similarly, Perdue had the fewest samples with campylobacter, but the most cases of salmonella.

Source: Reuters

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