How safe are our chickens?

Cambridge University research team finds alarming levels of resistant E coli in the supermarket poultry section



You know how your mum used to tell you never to undercook a chicken.

Well she was right then and right now.

A Cambridge team analysed packs of meat sold through major supermarket chains including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s Morrisons, Waitrose, the Co-op and Aldi.

In all the researchers tested 92 chicken samples which included products across the range like diced breast meat, legs, thighs and drumsticks as well as whole chickens.

They found antibiotic resistant E coli bacteria on 22 of the samples.

In another study half of all the chicken and pork samples analysed were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, often used in the treatment of lower urinary tract infections.

It is to be expected that bacteria of some level of bacterial contamination will be found in uncooked meat samples, but it is the resistance to antibiotics that is the concern of food safety experts.

The main worry is that irresponsible or profligate use of antibiotics in livestock would counter the attempts being made in human medicine to reduce the use of antibiotics and prevent the growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Food Standards Authority (FSA) is due to publish the findings of its own major testing programme soon, along with a plan to develop standards with manufacturers and retailers that will reduce the future risks.

Meanwhile consumers can protect themselves by scrupulously following the general food safety rules.

Keep uncooked meat separate from other foodstuffs to prevent any cross contamination (bear in mind that, through handling, the packaging may be contaminated too).

Most supermarkets will double bag your fresh meats for you at no cost if you ask, this will help prevent further contamination of your other groceries.

Always ensure you cook poultry, pork, minced beef and lamb products thoroughly.

Cooking remains the surest way to kill of bacteria.

Your meats should be steaming hot throughout, with no pinkness and clear juices.

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