Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Consumer Reports: Buy only antibiotic-free chicken

The February 2014 issue of Consumer Reports concludes "that most raw chicken breasts are contaminated with bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains."


An investigation by Consumer Reports magazine led to a startling conclusion:

"Ninety-seven percent of the [chicken] breasts we tested harbored bacteria that could make you sick."

"Consumer Reports' recent analysis of more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at stores across the U.S. found potentially harmful bacteria lurking in almost all of the chicken, including organic brands."

Chicken can kill

The magazine's February 2014 issue reports "more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity," according to an analysis of outbreaks from 1998 through 2008 by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 48 million people fall sick each year from eating tainted food.

Go drug free

"Still, there are good reasons for selecting chicken raised without the use of antibiotics," the magazine advises, adding:

"Buying those products supports farmers who keep their chickens off unnecessary drugs, and that's good for your health and preserves the effectiveness of antibiotics.

"'Chickens without antibiotic resistance to salmonella and other dangerous pathogens can't pass antibiotic-resistant bugs onto you,' says Dr. Robert Lawrence, a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health."

The Costco Connection cover story on "making food safer from farm to table" includes an appetizing photo of cooked poultry, produce and wine.

Costco weighs in

The Costco Connection magazine takes a starkly different approach to its report on food safety.

In a cover story in the January 2014 issue, Editor Tim Talevich asks whether government regulators are "making progress in the effort to make food safer?"

To answer this question, the editor met with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

He also asked Craig Wilson, who oversees "Costco's food safety and quality-assurance program, to explain how food safety is promoted within Costco,  from fresh meats prepared in warehouse meat departments to packaged foods that come from suppliers."

Costco poultry

The magazine doesn't discuss Costco Wholesale food products that are raised on animal antibiotics, growth hormones or both.

The vast majority of meat and poultry sold at my Costco Wholesale contain harmful animal antibiotics, and labels on farmed fish are silent on whether their feed contains antibiotics or preservatives.

That includes the wildly popular Kirkland Signature whole rotisserie chickens.

At the Hackenack Costco, I've seen two antibiotic-free poultry brands, Coleman Organic and Empire Kosher.  The store also carries organic ground beef.

The ShopRite and Stop & Shop supermarket chains also offer their own brands of antibiotic-free chicken, and I've seen Coleman Organic chicken parts in several North Jersey ShopRites.

Whole Foods Market pledges all of its farmed seafood is raised without antibiotics and preservatives.


Consumer Reports could have done a better job of communicating that all chicken, including more expensive organic and antibiotic-free brands, can be contaminated with bacteria.

A heading in the index, repeated in a prominent headline on Page 30 of the February 2014 issue reads:

"The high cost of cheap chicken"

As consumers know, organic and antibiotic-free chicken are more expensive than such low-cost, low-quality brands as Perdue, Amick Farms and Tyson.

Also, chicken breasts aren't the only parts that harbor harmful bacteria.

The Consumer Reports article includes a photo and story about Richard Schiller, 51, of San Jose, Calif., who was sickened by a salmonella strain found in the Foster Farms chicken thighs he ate.


  1. Is Readington Farms a safe one to buy chicken from. Found it at Shoprite

    1. We've been buying it for years. No antibiotics used to raise the chickens and they get vegetarian feed.


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