Ground Meat, Chicken High Risk for Foodborne Illness

Is the food on your plate safe? Often the staple of most dinner recipes, ground meat and chicken are among the riskiest foods to cause severe illness. The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report finding ground meat and chicken pose the greatest risk to consumers for hospitalization and cause the most severe illness of all foodborne illness cases studied. Of 33,000 cases studied, the meat and poultry products posing the lowest risk include chicken nuggets, ham and sausage.

Graph courtesy of CSPI

Three pathogens were identified as the most commonly associated with foodborne illness resulting in hospitalizations, which include E. coli O157:H7, Clostridium perfringens and Salmonella. On their website, CSPI senior food safety attorney Sarah Klein explains that even though the producers are responsible, consumers must heed extra caution. “Meat and poultry producers must bear primary responsibility for keeping pathogens out of their products, but when it comes to beef, chicken, and other raw meats, restaurateurs and home cooks must treat them like hazardous materials and take steps to minimize risk," she says.

Additionally Klein advises consumers to help eliminate the spread of germs in the kitchen and to use thermometers to ensure meat and chicken are fully cooked. Also, she says keeping food hot when serving and placing in the refrigerator within two hours of serving will help reduce the development of bacteria. Hand washing is always advised for anyone handling or eating food to help cut down on the spread of germs.

Graph courtesy of CSPI

Another popular entrĂ©e, steak, is listed in the second tier as “high risk,” along with “other” beef and turkey. One reason steak is high on the ranking, CSPI says, is due to the practice of tenderizing the meat with blades or needles which might drive bacteria on the surface to the interior. Turkey made the “high risk” ranking, CSPI says, due to the spike of foodborne illnesses in November and December when turkey is often left out too long on the table before being served.

If you have questions about food safety in your home, there’s an app to help with everything to proper cooking temperatures to a quiz to test your kitchen safety knowledge. Have tips for keeping your family safe from foodborne illness? Share with us on our Facebook page.