The National Chicken Council is responding to a Consumer Reports article, “The High Cost of Cheap Chicken,” released last week and featured in the February 2014 issue of the magazine and online at consumerreports.org.
Americans eat about 160 million servings of chicken each day, and 99.99 percent of those servings are consumed safely, according to the council.
“Unfortunately, this particular statistic was left out of the ‘in depth’ piece recently published by Consumer Reports,” the council says.
The response continues: U.S. chicken producers rely upon the best science, microbiology and technology to reduce foodborne pathogens, and spend tens of millions of dollars every year in the name of food safety research which can be credited with the significant decrease in foodborne pathogens present in chicken over the last several years.
“The belief that affordable food means it is lower in quality or compromised in some way stands in stark contrast to the hard work and efforts of American agriculture, USDA and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers and food producers who work tirelessly to produce a quality protein that is the envy of the world and enjoyed by millions of Americans,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown.
From 2001 to 2010—the latest 10-year period for which data are available—outbreaks related to E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens decreased by more than 40 percent. In the past five years, Salmonella in chickens has decreased by 55 percent.
“Eliminating bacteria entirely is always the goal,” Brown added. “But in reality, it’s simply not feasible.”
Any raw agricultural product, including fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and poultry, is susceptible to naturally occurring bacteria, the council notes. Whether it’s labeled “organic,” “natural,” purchased in the grocery store or at a local farmer’s market, there is the potential that fresh food could make consumers sick, if improperly handled or cooked.
“Which is why the National Chicken Council agrees with Consumer Reports on one point—we all play an important role in ensuring food safety for our families, from the farm to the table,” the council says.
“No legislation or regulation can keep bacteria from existing,” said Brown. “The only way to ensure our food is safe 100 percent of the time is by following science-based procedures when raising/growing, handling and cooking it. Right now, we’re at 99.9 percent but we’re going to keep working to reach 100.
“We take the safety of our chicken very seriously,” he added. “After all, our families are eating the same chicken as you and yours.”
Read the entire response here, and view the Consumer Reports article here.