Is Your Chicken Dinner Making You Sick?

Two new reports may have consumers thinking twice about having chicken for dinner.

For its report “The High Cost of Cheap Chicken,” Consumer Reports tested over 300 raw chicken breasts, including some labeled as organic and antibiotic free, at national retailers. The study found that nearly all (97 percent) had potentially harmful bacteria, and roughly half (49.7 percent) the chicken sampled contained at least one multidrug-­resistant bacterium.

“Our tests show consumers who buy chicken breast at their local grocery stores are very likely to get a sample that is contaminated and likely to get a bug that is multidrug resistant. When people get sick from resistant bacteria, treatment may be getting harder to find,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and Executive Director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

The report found enterococcus in 79.8 percent of the samples; e. coli in 65.2 percent; campylobacter in 43 percent; klebsiella pneumoniae in 13.6 percent; salmonella in 10.8 percent; and staphylococcus aureus in 9.2 percent.

Of those with e coli, 17.5 percent of the bugs were “ExPEC” bacteria, a type the report says is “more likely than other types to make you sick with a urinary-tract infection.”

Salmonella is responsible for roughly 1 million foodborne illnesses each year, but according to Consumer Reports’ tests of chicken over the last 15 years, there has been little change in salmonella rates, ranging between 11 and 16 percent.

“Making chicken safer to eat will require a revamping of the way that it’s raised and processed,” the report states.