harm the intestines and cause potentially fatal kidney damage.
A growing concern
Consumer Reports alerted the USDA earlier this year, leading to a recall of more than 28,000 pounds of meat from grocery chains in seven western states.
The group said the USDA has taken aggressive steps to protect the public from dangerous strains of E. coli but hasn’t taken action to protect consumers from salmonella.
More than 1 million Americans get sick from salmonella each year, about five times as many as do with E. coli. About one-fifth of those cases are from contaminated chicken or turkey.
“The USDA allows far too much chicken contaminated with salmonella on the market and puts the burden on consumers to protect themselves,” says investigative journalist Lisa Gill, who wrote the story reporting the findings. “There are steps we can all take to reduce the risk of getting sick, but that can be harder to do with ground meat.”
Consumer Reports called on the USDA to reduce the percentage of chicken samples allowed to test positive for salmonella. It said the agency should focus on reducing the salmonella strains that pose the biggest threat to human health.
It also said the USDA needs more authority to inspect poultry plants and close facilities immediately when high salmonella rates are found.
How to prevent food poisoning
To prevent food poisoning in your kitchen:
- Keep raw meats in a disposable bag away from other foods at the grocery store.
- Keep raw meat in a bag or bowl in the refrigerator.
- Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
- Wash your hands in hot soapy water before preparing food, every time you touch raw meat, and again when you’re done.
- Use a dedicated cutting board for raw meat and a different one for fruits and vegetables.
Consumer Reports also recommends using a meat thermometer:
- Ground beef and pork are safe to eat when cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Poultry should be cooked to 165 F.
- Beef roasts and steaks and pork roasts and chops should be cooked to 145 F.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of removing food from the stove.