A report by the Center for Science in Public Interest reviewed 33,000 cases of foodborne illnesses to find which meat and poultry categories are most likely to make consumers take a trip to the local hospital.
The analysis rated 12 meat and poultry categories, ranking them from the highest risk to the lowest, based on outbreak reports and the likelihood of hospitalizations associated with the pathogens most commonly reported in those foods. Information from 12 years and 1,700 outbreaks was used to calculate risk levels.
Risk levels show ground beef and chicken were rated the highest risk, followed by other cuts of beef, steak and turkey in the high risk category. Barbecue, deli meats, pork and roast beef received a medium risk ranking, and the meats said to be least risky were chicken nuggets, ham and sausage.
The report calls attention to bacterium, including E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, in the meat and shows the importance of cooking meats to required levels as well as taking other necessary precautions when preparing and storing food.
In response to the report, American Meat Institute Foundation President James H. Hodges says 99.9 percent of the 90 billion pounds of meat and poultry produced each year are consumed safely. He says a broader analysis of the entire food supply would put the CSPI’s findings in context and show we have a meat and poultry supply that delivers consistently safe eating experiences.
Hodges also calls attention to an analysis released by CSPI showing foodborne outbreaks related to E. coli, Salmonella, and other pathogens show declines of more than 40 percent, with beef and poultry showing the sharpest decline in reported outbreaks.
CSPI senior food safety attorney Sarah Klein said meat and poultry producers carry most of the responsibility in keeping pathogens out of their products, but restaurants and home cooks must follow necessary food safety steps when preparing meals.
“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.”
CSPI added the study rates meat and poultry risk on a food safety level and nutrition and diet ratings would categorize the same products differently.