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The Physicians Committee



NEWS RELEASE April 11, 2012

Nearly Half of Supermarket Chicken Tainted by Feces, Testing Finds

Poultry Products Rarely Tested for Contamination, Cause 1.5 Million Illnesses a Year

WASHINGTON—Nearly half the chicken products marketed by national brands and sold in supermarkets are contaminated with feces, according to laboratory test results of chicken samples from 15 grocery store chains in 10 major U.S. cities. The testing was conducted by an independent analytical testing laboratory at the request of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

PCRM investigated chickens from Perdue, Pilgrim’s, and Sanderson Farms, as well as 22 other popular brands. Testing revealed that 48 percent of the chicken samples tested positive for fecal contamination, indicated by the presence of coliform bacteria commonly found in chicken dung. The bacterial species E. coli is a type of coliform bacteria and a specific indicator used by slaughter and processing plants to check for fecal contamination of food products and water.

Chicken samples from every city and every grocery store chain tested positive. In Dallas, 100 percent of the chicken bought at the Kroger’s store tested positive for fecal matter. In Washington, D.C., 83 percent of the chicken bought at a Giant store and 67 percent of the chicken bought at a Safeway tested positive. Samples were also tested in Charleston, S.C., Milwaukee, Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Miami, and San Diego.

“One in every two supermarket chickens is contaminated with feces,” says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “Meat packers can’t avoid contaminating poultry products during production, and consumers are cooking and eating chicken feces in about half the cases.”

Skinless chicken breast was particularly likely to have fecal traces, and both “organically produced” and “conventional” products were frequently contaminated.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now considering privatizing poultry inspection. The proposal would reduce the time poultry workers have to inspect each carcass for feces and could result in more contaminated chicken products reaching supermarket shelves.

The results of the independent lab tests were as follows:

Fecal Contamination of Chicken Products in 10 U.S. Cities
City
Grocery Store
Chicken Products with Fecal Contamination
Charleston, S.C.
 
Harris Teeter
33%
Publix
33%
Chicago, Ill.
 
Dominick’s
33%
Jewel-Osco
67%
Dallas, Texas
Albertsons
33%
Kroger
100%
Denver, Colo.
 
Albertsons
50%
Safeway
67%
Houston, Texas
 
H-E-B
17%
Randalls
17%
Miami, Fla.
 
Publix
50%
Winn-Dixie
83%
Milwaukee, Wis.
 
Pic ‘n Save
17%
Piggly Wiggly
50%
Phoenix, Ariz.
 
Fry’s
50%
Safeway*
0%
San Diego, Calif.
 
Albertsons
17%
Ralphs
83%
Washington, D.C.
 
Giant
83%
Safeway
67%
 
* Indicates a store where retesting was performed; retesting found that 60 percent of the samples were positive for fecal contamination.
 
A 2009 USDA study found that 87 percent of chicken carcasses tested positive for E. coli after chilling and just prior to packaging. Every year, contaminated poultry products cause approximately 1.5 million illnesses, 12,000 hospitalizations, and 180 deaths. However, most people eating cooked chicken feces have no symptoms and are unaware of what they have ingested.

For a copy of the full report or to speak with Dr. Barnard please contact Vaishali Honawar at 202-527-7339 or vhonawar@pcrm.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.



 
 

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey
202-527-7316
jeannem@pcrm.org

Neal Barnard, M.D.

Neal Barnard, M.D.

Related Links:
Fecal Contamination in Retail Chicken Products Report

Fecal contamination in retail chicken products

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