Earlier this month, an Arizona federal court awarded a family $6.5 million (gross amount) as compensation for a foodborne illness case. The outcome is the first ever of its kind, specifically for the poultry industry.
Posted on Food Safety Magazine
The child suffered an internal brain injury as the result of a Salmonella Heidelberg infection, reportedly caused by eating chicken produced by Foster Farms. An outbreak was investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014.
The Plaintiff’s/Family’s Argument
Evidence was produced proving that the presence of Salmonella Heidelberg at Foster Farms was the norm, including the exact strain that sickened the child. Also, a history of negligence was apparent due to other foodborne illness outbreaks that Foster Farms had been connected to. In this particular Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, 639 people from 29 states were sickened from March 1, 2013 to July 11, 2014, according to the CDC.
Now, poultry producers can be held liable for contaminated meat they produce, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not necessarily consider Salmonella an “adulterant” in raw chicken.
Cookbooks may be leaving out a crucial step in recipes: food safety. The vast majority of recipes found in popular cookbooks offer little useful advice to keep you from getting sick, a new study finds.
In a review of nearly 1,500 recipes from popular cookbooks, researchers found that only 123 recipes, or about 8 percent, mentioned cooking meat to a specific temperature.
“Cookbooks tell people how to cook,” but the researchers wondered “whether they were telling people to cook in a way that could affect the risk of contracting foodborne illness,” Ben Chapman, a professor of food safety at North Carolina State University and the study’s senior author, said.
Previous research has suggested that in the U.S., up to 3.5 million cases of foodborne illnesses result from improperly cooking meat or other animal proteins, according to the study, which was published March 17 in the British Food Journal.
In the study, the researchers reviewed recipes in cookbooks that had been on The New York Times best-sellers list between September 2013 and January 2014. They examined recipes for cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, looking for several factors that impact food safety, including the internal temperature recommended for the meat. They also kept an eye out for common “food-safety myths” as they read the recipes — for example, advice that you should wash raw chicken in the sink (you shouldn’t).
They found that some recipes recommended an internal temperature for meat that was incorrect: Of the 123 recipes that mentioned a temperature, 34 recipes (or about 28 percent) recommended cooking meat to temperatures that were too low to kill bacteria or parasites, according to the study. And 27 of the recipes (about 22 percent) didn’t bother recommending that the chef use a meat thermometer, the researchers found.
Pork recipes were the most likely to include a specific temperature to cook the meat to, according to the study. Ground-beef recipes were the least likely to include an internal temperature, and instead, those recipes often told readers to evaluate doneness by looking at the color of the meat or the color of its juices, the researchers found.
And although egg recipes did include correct temperatures, they rarely told readers to use a thermometer, the study found.
Although almost every recipe in the study included directions to use some indicator to determine whether the animal protein had been cooked thoroughly, in many cases, these indicators aren’t backed up by scientific studies, the researchers said.
For example, the most common indicator that a recipe was done was cooking time, according to the study. But cooking time can be “particularly unreliable, because so many factors affect how long it takes to cook something: the size of the dish being cooked, how cold it was before going in the oven, differences in cooking equipment and so on,” lead study author Katrina Levine, an agricultural and human sciences researcher at North Carolina State University, said in a statement.
In some cases, recipes included two recommendations that contradicted each other — for example, “Cook the turkey for 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Other unreliable indicators included the color or texture of the meat, or the instruction to cook until “simmering”.
Very few of the recipes included advice to avoid cross-contamination, which occurs when germs from one of the foods in the recipe is transferred to something else, according to the study.
For example, only 29 recipes recommended using separate or clean cutting boards, utensils and dishes for raw and cooked foods, the researchers found. And only 12 recipes recommended that people wash their hands after touching raw animal protein.
What’s in your chicken sandwich? DNA test shows Subway sandwiches could contain just 50% chicken.
If you’re one of many who opt for chicken sandwiches at your favourite fast food restaurant, you may find the results of a CBC Marketplace investigation into what’s in the meat a little hard to swallow.
A DNA analysis of the poultry in several popular grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps found at least one fast food restaurant isn’t serving up nearly as much of the key ingredient as people may think.
In the case of two popular Subway sandwiches, the chicken was found to contain only about half chicken DNA.
DNA researcher Matt Harnden at Trent University’s Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory tested the poultry in six popular chicken sandwiches.
An unadulterated piece of chicken from the store should come in at 100% chicken DNA. Seasoning, marinating or processing meat would bring that number down, so fast food samples seasoned for taste wouldn’t be expected to hit that 100% target.
In the first round of tests, the lab tested two samples of five of the meat products, and one sample of the Subway strips. From each of those samples, the researchers isolated three smaller samples and tested each of those.
They were all DNA tested and the score was then averaged for each sandwich. Most of the scores were “very close” to 100% chicken DNA, Harnden says.
McDonald’s Country Chicken (grilled) averaged 84.9%
Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich averaged 88.5%
A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe averaged 89.4%
Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap averaged 86.5%
Subway’s results were such an outlier that the team decided to test them again, biopsying five new oven roasted chicken pieces, and five new orders of chicken strips. Those results were averaged: the oven roasted chicken scored 53.6% chicken DNA, and the chicken strips were found to have just 42.8% chicken DNA. The majority of the remaining DNA? Soy.
What else is in there?
On the whole, Marketplace’s testing revealed that once the ingredients are factored in, the fast food chicken had about a quarter less protein than you would get in its home-cooked equivalent. And overall, the sodium levels were between seven and 10 times what they would be in a piece of unadulterated chicken.
The sandwiches tested contain a combined total of about 50 ingredients in the chicken alone, each with an average of 16 ingredients. The ingredients run the gamut from things you would find in your home such as honey and onion powder to industrial ingredients — all of which, Bohrer insists, are safe and government approved for human consumption.
McDonald’s, A&W and Wendy’s wouldn’t break down exactly what ingredients are used in what proportions, citing proprietary information. Tim Hortons had no comment and directed Marketplace to their website.