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Ground beef, chicken are riskiest meats - new report

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Ground beef is shown in this undated file image.

Ground beef is shown in this undated file image. (KABC Photo)

A newly released foodborne illness report shows that ground beef and chicken have caused more hospitalizations than other meats.

The report by the Center for Science and Public Interest said chicken nuggets, ham and sausage pose the lowest risk of foodborne illness.

Researchers analyzed more than 33,000 cases of foodborne illnesses in the report, including government data on 1,700 outbreaks over 12 years to analyze salmonella, E. coli, listeria and other pathogens that were definitively linked to a certain meat.

To calculate which meats were riskiest, CSPI ranked the foods in which contamination was most likely to cause hospitalizations. Some meats may have had more illnesses but were less likely to cause severe illness.

After ground beef and chicken, CSPI placed turkey and steak in the "high risk" category and deli meat, pork, roast beef and beef or pork barbeque in the "medium risk" category.

Salmonella and E. coli accounted for a third of the illnesses surveyed, while the lesser-known pathogen clostridium perfringens accounted for another third.

The report stated that while a large number of chicken illnesses were due to clostridium perfringens, chicken led to many hospitalizations partly because of the high incidence of salmonella in chicken that isn't properly cooked.

Most of the ground beef illnesses were due to E. coli. Ground beef can be riskier than steak and other beef products because pathogens are spread during the grinding process.

The report stated that listeria, salmonella and E. coli required the most hospitalizations.

According to CSPI, their data is not complete because so many foodborne illnesses are not reported or tracked. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 48 million Americans get sick from food poisoning each year.

CSPI recommended what they call "defensive eating" to reduce foodborne illnesses from meat. This practice, which assumes that meat can be unsafe, includes not letting meat juices drip onto other food or counters, cleaning cutting boards and plates that touched raw meat, wearing gloves when preparing meat and washing hands often.

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