It hardly comes as news that ground beef and chicken are the riskiest meats in the U.S. food supply but a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says they're also the meats most likely to make you seriously ill.
"Outbreaks from ground beef and chicken are reported frequently, and all too often cause debilitating illnesses — illnesses that lead to hospitalization," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. "For example, approximately a quarter of those who are sickened by Salmonella will go to the hospital. The hospitalization rate for E. coli infections is nearly 50 percent and for Listeria infections it is more than 90 percent."
The deadly bacterium E. coli O157:H7, for instance, was responsible for 100 outbreaks associated with ground beef in the 12-year study period. Because that pathogen is estimated to result in hospitalization in nearly half of those infected, ground beef had the highest severity index of the 12 meat and poultry categories.
The nonprofit group looked at more than 33,000 cases of foodborne illness connected to products regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find the products with the highest risk.
The report, Risky Meat: A Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety, ranks 12 categories of meat and poultry based on outbreak reports. It found that chicken nuggets, ham, and sausage pose the lowest risk of foodborne illness.
"Meat and poultry producers must bear primary responsibility for keeping pathogens out of their products, but when it comes to beef, chicken, and other raw meats, restaurateurs and home cooks must treat them like hazardous materials and take steps to minimize risk," said CSPI senior food safety attorney Sarah Klein. "Care should be taken to avoid spreading germs from the meat around the kitchen, and meat thermometers should be used to ensure that ground beef, chicken, and other meats are fully cooked."