Big news this week from Consumer Reports, the toaster-testing periodical that occasionally masquerades as a reliable source of food-safety advice: If you serve chicken medium-rare, someone might get sick. Whew. Thank goodness we subscribe. Consumer Reports has previously issued baseless warnings about genetically modified foods and acrylamide. Its claim that pregnant women should stop eating all canned tuna was a high watermark of public health irresponsibility. And now the magazine is trying to scare Americans about bacteria in uncooked chicken, a phenomenon which every competent chef (including “chef mom”) already understands. It’s called hand-washing. Check it out. It wipes out bird flu too.
Based on her magazine’s sample of 525 chickens, Consumer Reports scientist Urvashi Rangan warned CBS News viewers yesterday about an “astronomical rate of pathogen contamination.” To its credit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired back almost immediately. “There is virtually nothing or any conclusion that anyone could draw from 500 samples,” USDA spokesman Steven Cohen told a Reuters reporter. “They’re passing along junk science and calling it an investigation.” Cohen also noted that Consumer Reports failed to distinguish between the various types of salmonella. At least one very common strain, it turns out, doesn’t make people sick.
Bottom line: Cook your chicken. Wash your hands. Pick up a copy of Consumer Reports when it’s time for a new vacuum cleaner or dishwasher. But leave food safety to the experts.