The food safety law firm, Marler Clark, funded the study in the wake of similar testing done in England and Canada in hopes of learning how much contamination Americans should expect to find in their chicken.
“Unfortunately this high rate of contamination is not altogether surprising and though this is a Seattle area study, my experience tells me it is not just a local problem,” said Marler Clark Managing Partner Bill Marler. “It really goes to show the need for care and safety when handling raw chicken in production, restaurants and at home.”
The test was comprised of 18 brands of chicken purchased at 18 different Seattle area stores including chain grocery stores Safeway (3 locations), QFC (4), Albertsons (2), Fred Meyer (2), Thriftway (1); warehouse clubs Costco (2) and Sam’s Club (1); natural foods stores Whole Foods (1) and PCC (1), and one small market, Ken’s Market (1).
In this study, local and organic chicken did not prove to be safer than other samples. In terms of origination, 59 chicken samples originated from Washington, while 13 samples came from other states and 28 were of unknown origin. Regardless of place, chicken from every state tested was confirmed to contain potentially harmful bacteria. Of the 14 samples of organic chicken, 12 contained harmful bacteria.
The study tested for five pathogens. Previous studies have found on average that 33 to 53% of chicken is contaminated with Campylobacter. In Seattle, 65% of the chicken tested positive for Campylobacter. Salmonella was isolated in 19% of the chicken purchased at retail stores in the Seattle area, slightly higher than the expected average of 16%. Staphylococcus aureus was found in 42% of the chicken sampled; 10 of these samples were Methicillan-resistant, commonly known as MRSA. One sample cultured positive for Listeria monocytogenes and one sample cultured positive for E. coli O26, a bacteria often found in beef.
Recently the USDA revamped its standards for allowable Salmonella in chicken. In July, 2011, the limit will decrease from 20% to 7.5% in broiler chicken carcasses, meaning the Salmonella tainted chicken in Marler’s study falls within current requirements but will be almost three times too high by the upcoming standards.
“I am somewhat discouraged to see Salmonella rates this high with the 7.5 percent mandate fast approaching,” added Marler. “Nonetheless I remain hopeful that food manufacturers do in fact hit the target when the time comes.”
Source: Marler Clark