The “Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks” report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that chicken meat has caused the most food-related sickness among the public.
For the purpose of its survey, the CDC defines “foodborne disease outbreak” as incidents where two or more people contract the same type of illness after eating a common food.
While fish and dairy products cause more outbreaks, illnesses contracted after eating chicken has made most of the general public sick.
Chicken Sickened More People During Outbreaks
The CDC estimated that there are about 800 foodborne disease outbreaks yearly in the United States. These outbreaks resulted in 15,000 illnesses, 800 hospitalizations, and 20 deaths each year.
For this particular survey, the center analyzed 5,760 outbreaks from 2009 to 2015. These outbreaks sickened 100,939 people. Of those, 5,699 were hospitalized, and 145 died.
In total, 12 percent or 3,114 of the illnesses reported within the period were linked to chicken. Salmonella in eggs caused 2,422 illnesses while Salmonella in chicken caused 1,941 illnesses.
Fish was linked to 222 cases of outbreaks within the period of study but only sickened 1,353 people. The chicken was linked to 123 cases of outbreaks.
Meanwhile, pork and seeded vegetables ranked second and third most common causes of illnesses during outbreaks respectively.
The pork was linked to 89 outbreaks and sickened 2,670 people. Seeded vegetables were linked to 44 outbreaks and sickened 2,572.
Chicken And The Consumers
Thomas Gremillion, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, believed that chicken is a reservoir for salmonella, hence the result of the CDC survey. He explained salmonella is commonly spread through food preparation. He said salmonella can be spread by simply using a tainted sponge to clean up the kitchen counter or by merely rinsing the contaminated chicken in the sink.
Gremillion believed the government inspectors are the ones responsible in making sure that only uncontaminated chicken reaches the tables of the consumers. He said that instead of finding ways to boost the profits of the poultry industry, the government should first find out why the United States is behind in poultry sanitation compared to other countries.
On the other hand, a representative for the National Chicken Council believed that the US meat and poultry industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country. He highlighted how the industry has modernized its poultry inspection systems and in fact reduced salmonella on chicken by 20 percent over the past three years.
“Given that Americans eat about 160 million servings of chicken every day, the vast majority of consumers are cooking and handling chicken properly and having a safe experience,” the representative said.