Study Finds 48% of Chicken Could Be Tainted by Poop

But the strain of E. coli found won't make you sick, say experts

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 12, 2012 8:12 AM CDT

(Newser) – There's a pretty good chance your chicken has been contaminated by poop. Some 120 chickens bought from grocery stores in 10 major cities were tested in a new study, which found that 48% were contaminated by E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination, the New York Times reports. "Most consumers do not realize that feces are in the chicken products they purchase," says the president of the group that conducted the study, which advocates a vegetarian diet.

But food safety specialists say the study isn't worth clucking over, both because its sample size is so small (42 million pounds of raw chicken occupy grocery store shelves each day), and because the strain of E. coli it tested for isn't actually harmful (though the study head points to research linking it to urinary tract infections). "What’s surprising to me is that they didn’t find more," says one doctor. "Poop gets into your food." Some samples did have E. coli levels higher than the Department of Agriculture allows for birds leaving a processing plant, but experts say it's impossible to know how much bacteria developed en route to the store.

A woman picks out a chicken at a grocery store in this file photo.
A woman picks out a chicken at a grocery store in this file photo.   (Getty Images)
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