If you buy grocery-store chicken on a regular basis you may want to consider handling it and preparing it with care. A study (via Rodale.com) by researchers in Montreal found that as much as two-thirds of the chicken sold in grocery stores contains bacteria that are resistant to treatment by many common antibiotics.
The study has even greater implications for consumers, however, as the bacteria commonly found was a variant of E.coli, a bacteria which is often the culprit behind painful urinary tract infections or UTIs.
“In 80 to 90 percent of routine urinary tract infections, E. coli is the most common cause,” said Amee Manges, associate professor in the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at McGill University and the study’s lead author.
For the study, researchers compared urine samples from women in Canada and the U.S. who had been diagnosed with UTIs with the E. coli found in samples of beef, pork, and chicken purchased at grocery stores in those same regions.
The results as they relate to a link between chicken purchases and UTIs provide food for thought. An overwhelming number of cases—71 percent—of the E. coli bacteria collected from women with UTIs matched that of the E. coli found in grocery-store chicken. Only slightly less worrying are the results related to pork and beef, which indicated a 29 percent match.
Of equal concern was Manges’ subsequent finding that some of the bacteria present in the contaminated supermarket chickens showed a marked resistance to antibiotics often prescribed to treat UTIs.
Said Manges: “Most of what we found could be treated with antibiotics, but it’s still concerning because that just means we have fewer drugs to treat them.”
Consumers can reduce the risk of infection by observing proper cooking and handling methods, said Manges.
Health website Rodale.com suggests consumers opt for safer alternatives such as organic chicken or chicken from a local farmer. In support of the switch, Rodale cites research that found poultry raised on organic farms had significantly lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria in their systems than those raised on feedlots.