Two recent news stories about the dangers of chicken are making me queasy just thinking about dinner.
I’ve always loved chicken. Who doesn’t? It’s a mainstay of diets around the world, and a particular favorite of Armenians. To me, there just isn’t anything that says “comfort food” like a plate of roasted chicken, pilaf and salad.
But it’s impossible for me to be comfortable with chicken on my plate or even in the fridge after reading New York Times food writer Mark Bittman’s recent report on virulent new strains of salmonella.
The gist of his concern is that the government has been telling us for years not to worry about lax standards regarding salmonella in raw chicken sold in the U.S. because cooking chicken is supposed to kill the bacteria.
Now we’re learning that isn’t necessarily so. There have been cases of salmonella in chicken cooked well beyond the recommended safe temperature. The reason this is not just bad but very, very bad is that eating food laced with this invisible and now apparently heat-resistant menace can cause serious and lasting illness or even death.
What’s maddening is that Bittman notes some other countries have taken the problem more seriously. Sweden has eliminated salmonella in chicken, while our government has failed to remove some seriously contaminated chicken from our markets.
There is reason to worry that the situation may actually get worse. The Times has also reported that the Chinese have been given the go-ahead to process American chicken and ship the cooked product back to the U.S. The move is seen as the first step in allowing imports of Chinese-bred chicken.
“China does not have the best track record for food safety, and its chicken products in particular have raised questions,” the story reported. “The country has frequent outbreaks of deadly avian influenza, which it sometimes has been slow to report.”
Think you’ll just avoid anything labeled “chicken from China?” No such luck, as origin labels won't be required and these processed bits are liable to wind up tucked, folded or stewed into the next sandwich or bowl of soup you order in a restaurant.
How did this happen in America?