- YONKERS, New York -- A germ that kills hundreds of people a year
and sickens millions was found on two-thirds of the chickens bought at
stores around the country for a study by Consumer Reports.
- The bacterium -- campylobacter -- was
found four times as often as salmonella, yet the government does not require
that chickens be tested for it, said Edward Groth, director of technical
policy for Consumers Union, which publishes the magazine.
- Campylobacter "is the most widespread
cause of food poisoning in the United States," he said Monday. "We're
talking up to 1,000 deaths and many millions of cases of indigestion and
diarrhea, and it really is not something that should be overlooked."
- Industry spokesmen called the article
alarmist, saying that not all cases of campylobacteriosis come from chickens
and that it would be impossible or too expensive to eliminate all contaminated
- Producers and the magazine agreed that
thorough cooking will kill the bacteria, and that consumers should follow
the directions on every package about how to handle poultry.
- "If we knew how we could get rid
of these organisms in fresh raw foods, we would," said Kenneth May,
technical adviser to the National Broiler Council. "But we don't know
how to do that, and certainly not in any kind of cost-effective manner
- Unpasteurized milk and unchlorinated
water are other sources of the bacterium, but the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention said poultry causes more than half of all cases. It estimates
500 deaths and 2 million cases each year from the germ. Most of these cases
- Generally, it causes fever and diarrhea
that last no more than a week. But the infection can also leave a person
with arthritis and is a major cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can
lead to paralysis.
- Consumer Reports bought 1,000 chickens
in 36 cities last fall, then sent them in coolers to a lab. Campylobacter
was found in 63 percent of the birds, salmonella in 16 percent. Eight percent
of the chickens had both and 29 percent had neither.
- No one brand was consistently cleaner
than others, Consumer Reports said. However, expensive premium chickens,
including "free-range" birds, were the most contaminated.
- Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.
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