Forget the alcohol. Never mind the prescription drugs. It looks like the FDA should require a new WARNING label on chicken!

That’s because a startling new report reveals:

97% of chicken breast contains harmful bacteria that can make you sick as a dog!

A recent Consumer Reports analysis of more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at stores across the U.S. found potentially harmful bacteria lurking in a whopping 97% of chicken – even organic brands!

The report analyzed raw samples of skinless, boneless chicken breasts… thin-sliced breasts… breast tenderloins… and skin-on, bone-in breasts from four major brands (Perdue, Tyson, Pilgrim’s and Sanderson farms).

Non-major brands (including store brands and minor brands), as well as a sampling of “anti-biotic free” and “organic” brands were studied…

… and the results will blow you away!

Overall there was no difference in the total occurrence of all bacteria between conventional brands and those labeled no antibiotics or organic. And all brands contained worrisome levels of bacteria.

But there’s more. Chicken was tested for six bacteria – including salmonella, campylobacter and staphylococcus aureus (which are some of the most common bacterial causes of food poisoning)… E. coli… and enterococcus.

A shocking amount of chicken breasts were tainted with E. coli (65.2%) and enterococcus (79.8%). More than half of the samples contained fecal contaminants. And about half (49.7%) of the chicken samples contained at least one bacterium that was resistant to three or more commonly prescribed antibiotics.

And that’s a HUGE deal since the CDC reports antibiotic-resistant infections are linked to at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year!

How the heck do these dangerous bacteria get into raw chicken in the first place?

According public health expert J. Glenn Morris Jr., M.D., here are three ways these harmful pathogens make it into the chicken you and your family eat for dinner…

  1. Bacteria are transferred during the slaughtering process.It’s perfectly common for a chicken’s intestinal tract to carry bacteria (including salmonella and/or campylobacter). While contained there, the bacteria won’t harm the animal. However, during the slaughtering process they can be transferred directly to the meat.
  2. Bacteria thrives in cramped living quarters.If a chicken that is living in cramped conditions comes in contact with feces, the bacteria can cling to its skin and make its way to your dinner plate. YUCK!
  3. Cross contamination in the kitchen.When you take chicken out of the package, you get bacteria on your hands. If you touch the handle of the faucet… trash bin… or kitchen cabinet these pathogens cling to those surfaces for hours – even days at a time!

So, is there any chicken breast that’s safe to purchase?

Since the Consumer Reports analysis couldn’t find a brand of chicken breast that had fewer bacteria than the rest – what kind should you buy?

According to Consumer Reports toxicologist Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., “At the moment, the only way to protect yourself from becoming sick is to remain vigilant about safe handling and cooking.”

However, it’s good idea to purchase chicken that’s labeled antibiotic-free. These chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics. And buying these products helps…

  • Protect your health! According to Johns Hopkins Professor Robert Lawrence, M.D., chickens that are not pumped full of antibiotics won’t pass antibiotic resistant bugs on to you!
  • Support farmers who keep their chickens off unnecessary drugs! Giving antibiotics to animals that aren’t sick is a huge problem. This process breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chickens that can spread to humans.
  • Preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics! Remember: Multi-drug resistant bacteria were found in nearly half of the Consumer Reports test samples. If bacteria become resistant to even more drugs, it could mean that antibiotics used to treat life-threatening illnesses could become useless.

By the way, if you’re confused about the difference between organic vs. free-range vs. antibiotic-free chicken, click here for a quick reference guide published by the
National Chicken Council.

Try these 6 tips to prepare chicken safely and reduce the risk of food-borne illness in your home!

  1. Use a “raw meat only” cutting board. To prevent cross-contamination keep your cutting board for raw meat separate from the one you use to cut fruits and veggies!
  2. Wash your hands after touching raw chicken. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using warm water. Repeat this every time you touch raw poultry – whether frozen or fresh!
  3. DO NOT wash chicken under a faucet before cooking. Sounds crazy, but think about this: Bacteria can spread up to 3 feet from the sink – and those areas may not get disinfected. Talk about a breeding ground for illness!
  4. Shop for chicken last at the grocery store. Bacteria take over as raw chicken starts to get warm. Keep chicken cold for as long as possible in-store by making the meat department your last pit stop!
  5. Use plastic bags while shopping. To prevent juices from contaminating other food, always place chicken in the bags provided at the store.
  6. Purchase a meat thermometer. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165ºF. The only way to be absolutely sure you reach the proper temperature is to use a thermometer!

Does this new research change the way you’ll shop for poultry from now on? Are you concerned about your risk of food-borne illness when you and your family eat chicken? Please share your comments below!