TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
Chicken is the most popular meat on American dinner tables, but a new Consumer Reports test of more than 300 raw chicken breasts, from stores across the country, found potentially harmful bacteria in nearly all the samples. Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of it.
No matter which way you slice it 97 percent of tested chicken breasts contain bacteria.
"We tested the chicken for six bacteria, including Salmonella and Campylobacter, which are common causes of food poisoning," Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., with Consumer Reports, said.
This is chicken you're buying at grocery stores and restaurants. Major brands like Perdue, Tyson, Sanderson Farms, and Pilgrim's all contained bacteria. East Texas is home to Tyson and Pilgrim's Food Plants, and a Sanderson Farms Plant is expected to be finished in Palestine by 2015.
No one brand is better than any other, according to Consumer Reports.
Brenda Elrod, with The Northeast Texas Health District, says there are easy ways to avoid becoming sick.
"It's really about time and temperature," she said.
Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees to kill any existing bacteria. A meat thermometer can detect the inside temperature of a piece of chicken. Some digital ones sell for $20, but we found some at local stores for $5. Brenda says they all work well.
"It's critical, from the farm to the fork, that we control those temperatures and that's what FDA is looking at," she said.
For those leftovers, she says make sure that chicken drops to 41 degrees or lower within two hours. You can refrigerate it or put it in an ice bath to chill. Once ready to eat it later, be sure to re-heat it back up to 165 degrees.
"The problem comes if you handle that raw chicken and then you handle your fresh salad, you could very well take that germ and then cross contaminate it onto a product that you're not going to cook."
Just be diligent, she says.
Rick Schiller learned that lesson first hand. A piece of chicken landed him in the hospital with Salmonella.
"I thought I wasn't going to make it there for a little bit. I was that sick. I was so sick I couldn't move around,” he described that experience, “I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to lay there."
But as long as you monitor temperatures and wash your hands and utensils, experts say, you can safely enjoy your chicken.
The symptoms of food poisoning are obvious, Brenda Elrod, said. You'll have an extreme stomach ache that causes severe vomiting. Those symptoms would be much worse than your common stomach flu and should be treated by a doctor.