chicken

Chicken, the most popular meat sold in the U.S. has come under scrutiny over foodborne illness risks, including salmonella, in two reports released last week.

The high cost of cheap chicken,” by Consumer Reports, and “Weaknesses in FSIS’ Salmonella Regulation,” by the Pew Charitable Trusts reveal foodborne illness safety risks in consuming chicken. “[W]hen it comes to food safety, poultry is fraught with risks that consumer groups say aren’t being fully addressed by producers and federal inspectors,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

According to the report released by Consumer Reports magazine, safety tests conducted on 300 store-bought chickens revealed potentially harmful bacteria in nearly every sample.

The report from the Pew Charitable Trusts found the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service “lacks the authority to properly protect the public,” as two recent salmonella outbreaks demonstrated, reports the Times. “At the core of both findings are calls to strengthen government oversight in the $70-billion poultry industry. Doing so would help reduce incidents of food-borne illness, which sickens 48 million people and kills 3,000 in the U.S every year.”

The Pew report found salmonella oversight to be rampant in poultry inspections, because, writes the Times, “inspectors lack broad powers to shut down problem processors like they can for other serious pathogens such as E. coli 0157:57.”

Earlier this month, the USDA announced plans to enforce stricter testing for salmonella, developing the nation’s first national standards for acceptable levels of contamination in cut chicken parts. “Making chicken safer to eat will require a revamping of the way that it’s raised and processed,” said Consumer Reports.

A spokesperson for the Food Safety and Inspection Service said that the reports “confirm the need for measures already underway at FSIS to prevent food-borne illness.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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