Is Your Chicken Safe to Eat?

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Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) –- Consumers Union Food & Product Safety Campaign Director Jean Halloran and Smithfield Foods President & CEO Larry Pope discuss food safety and why chicken has the most disease-causing bacteria of all the foods we eat. They speak to Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock." (Source: Bloomberg)

Why did you do this report?

We have been concerned for some time about the safety of chicken.

It probably has the most disease-causing bacteria of any of the foods that we commonly eat.

We checked periodically to see what the situation is.

You did check, and you took various samples, and you check for salmonella?

What did you find?

We found about 14% of all samples had salmonella, which is not good odds.

Every six or seven times you have chicken, you're going to find salmonella.

Worse than that, just about every piece of chicken you buy is going to have something in it that could make you sick.

What are those other somethings?

E. coli, other diseases.

We checked for six disease- causing bacteria.

More than half of the samples have something?

More than 90% have something.

Half of those bugs qualify is what you might call a superbug.

What is a superbug?

Something that is resistant to more than three classes of antibiotics.

If it makes you sick, it is going to be very hard to find a cure.

Larry pope, come in on the topic of food safety.

You can't have any problems with your food.

Otherwise, it damages the brand and sickens or customers.

Sure.

I am in the pork industry.

I am not speaking for the poultry industry in any way.

We take food safety, we all take food safety very seriously.

We all know we are in a zero- tolerance world.

We know we have to take great pains in our plans to make sure that what we served consumers something they can eat, and they are not going to have a problem.

Talk about zero-tolerance.

The rules, at least as far as i understand it, are that a recall for food is voluntary, something that the company does not have to do, but in the case of tysons food, they decided they are going to recall that 33,000 pounds of chicken.

The usda has far from zero- tolerance for seminole and chicken.

In fact, it is perfectly legal.

There is not even any standard at all.

They have a lacks standard of 7.5% for whole chickens, but for breasts and legs, it is just fine to have salmonella in the chicken, as long as you are operating your plant along what they call sanitary rules.

What about all the labeling that goes into the food, particularly into the labeling of chicken?

Does that matter?

For the chicken that is raised without antibiotics and that is organic, that did have a slightly better record in terms of antibiotic resistance, even though overall it was really hard to distinguish it in terms of whether there were bugs.

The bugs were not quite as terrible.

Not quite as vicious.

Not quite as vicious.

What are some of the ways that individuals can combat this?

You say it is the nature of the situation.

How about making sure that you cook it or that your hands are washed and taking all the regular precautions?

Consumers are being asked to be something like operating a level three biohazard lab.

That is really what you have to do.

You have to be extremely careful.

You must always cook the chicken thoroughly, use a meat thermometer, cook it to 100 65 degrees, but most of the contamination -- people get sick from using the knife on the chicken and then using it on your lettuce without watching it -- washing it.

Cross-contamination in the refrigerator, kitchen counter, if it drifts in your shopping bags.

You have to be extremely careful to keep your chicken separate from everything else.

May be separate from the spiral cut ham.

Once it is cooked, you can go ahead and do that.

You don't have to worry about anything else.

Most in the industry always indicate to the consumer -- she makes the point very clearly -- your grandmother knew what she was talking about when she said, wash your hands, and cook your meat.

The final action you take is to kill the bacteria.

Kill it at 165 degrees.

It is a simple solution.

It works.

Unfortunately, some people do not take that kind of precaution.

She is right about cross- contamination.

I feel safe going out and eating with both of you.

Thank you very much, larry pope, chief executive of smithfield foods.

Also, my thanks to jeanne holl

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.

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