This Food Causes More Sickness Than Any Other, According to the CDC
Hint: It’s not romaine lettuce.
Chicken is far and away the most popular source of protein in the U.S. Who doesn’t love a glorious roast chicken or, let’s face it, a hearty serving of fried chicken from time to time? However, it’s important to note this popular protein is also the most popular when it comes to food poisoning.
According to a recent report from the CDC, announcements about several types of food poisoning infections have been increasing in frequency over the last few years. This doesn't necessarily mean food is getting less safe, however, but mostly shows that the new tools put in place to identify outbreaks are working.
The most common cases of infection consistently remain the same—salmonella and campylobacter, which are both bacteria—and government agencies are putting more effort into reducing and tracking these outbreaks. Both are spread through animal feces and are often found in chicken products.
Salmonella is the more widely known illness, and outbreaks can come from a wide variety of foods like eggs, meat, dairy, and produce, while campylobacter is pretty strictly linked to chicken consumption. Last year, the USDA said 22 percent of production plants did not meet standards for limiting salmonella contamination in chicken parts. Salmonella contamination has gone down in whole birds, but data for more popular chicken parts—like legs and breasts—have only recently started being tracked by the agency.
Even still, Tony Corbo of Food and Water Watch—a food safety advocacy group—told the Associated Press salmonella and campylobacter are allowed in raw poultry sold in supermarkets. This is why health experts advise people to properly handle and cook poultry.
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When it comes to handling raw chicken, it’s important to take the utmost caution—avoiding common mistakes, like rinsing it or reusing kitchen tools that have come into contact with the raw chicken. Having a specific cutting board designated for raw meat is a good way to avoid cross-contamination. When it comes to cooking chicken, ensure it has been cooked thoroughly—to at least 165. If you don't have one, get a good meat thermometer for checking the temperature. Check out our tips for sauteéing, cooking from frozen, and grilling.
E.coli is third most common foodborne illness in the U.S. and tends to get more press than both salmonella and campylobacter, as it is the most dangerous. E.coli outbreaks have been linked to raw meat and produce. Ensuring you are practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques, along with staying abreast of the latest recall news, is the best way to remain E.coli free.
While this report is based on data from only 10 states, it is seen as an indicator for foodborne illness trends across the country. The report explains the difficulties of understanding food poisoning due to the high volume of unreported cases, inconsistent diagnostic methods, and constantly changing product production practices and consumer eating habits.