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Fecal Bacteria Survey

How contaminated is the American meat supply with fecal matter?

October 13, 2010 |
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Last year, we played the USDA parasite game. This year, we can play the fecal bacteria game, thanks to the Centers for Disease Control, which tests retail meat to see how much fecal matter contamination they can find.
First up, Salmonella, a fecal pathogen that can trigger something called Reiter’s Syndrome, where you come down with Salmonella food poisoning once, and you can end up with chronic, debilitating arthritis for the rest of your life. And all sorts of other grisly consequences.
Where’s Salmonella found the most? Chicken, turkey, beef, or pork? I would have guessed chicken, but no, turkey was nearly twice as risky in the latest annual survey in terms of Salmonella contamination. But what percentages are we talking about? Who thinks greater than 50% of turkey has Salmonella in it? Or is it less than 50%?
Thankfully, less than 50%. Only about 1 in 7 retail packages of poultry has the potential to permanently cripple us. Better odds than Russian Roulette!
Seriously, though. Why are American consumers placed at such high risk? Earlier this year, in a meat industry trade publication an article was published on how countries in Europe boast extremely low salmonella rates. They’ve gotten salmonella contamination in poultry as low as 2%. How do they do it?
While countries like Sweden still find some Salmonella-positive flocks, the difference is that it is illegal there to sell salmonella-positive chicken… What a concept. It’s illegal to sell a product that could kill or cripple our childen. So why don’t we do that? Banning infected poultry is a “hard-handed” policy, an Alabama poultry science professor explains. The fact is that it’s too expensive not to sell salmonella-positive chicken….
Can you imagine a toy manufacturer saying, Sorry, we’d love to pull unsafe toys off the market but such a large percentage of our toys are hazardous that it would be too expensive for us.
Next up, Campylobacter, a fecal pathogen that can trigger something called Guillain-Barre syndrome, where you come down with Campylobacter food poisoning once, and you can end up paralyzed on a ventilator. You’re not in a coma—you’re awake, but so completely paralyzed you can’t even breathe on your own. I’ve seen about a dozen patients with Guillain-Barre—it’s like straight out of a buried alive horror movie.
Where’s Campylobacter found the most? Chicken, turkey, beef, or pork? No contest: the chicken breasts. It doesn’t seem to be in red meat at all.
But is it more than half of chicken in the store these days? Or less than half? … Just under 50%.
Still, with the virtual elimination of polio, the most common cause of neuromuscular paralysis in the United States now comes from eating chicken.
And finally, E. coli, a general indicator of how much fecal matter is left on or in the meat. Chicken, turkey, beef, or pork?
… Turkey to another surprise finish. But is it more than 50%, or less?
… More than 90%. Nine out of 10 packages of ground turkey, nine out of 10 chicken breasts are packaged with poop, and most ground beef in the country has manure in it as well., although less than half of pork chops are contaminated with hog feces.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on fecal contamination. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my blog posts: E. coliO145 Ban Opposed by Meat IndustryTalking Turkey: 9 out of 10 retail turkey samples contaminated with fecal bacteriaWhy is it Legal to Sell Unsafe Meat?Bugs & Drugs in Pork: Yersinia and RactopaminePlant-Based Diets for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Why Is Selling Salmonella-Tainted Chicken Legal?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on fecal contamination. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/stewartlugo/ stewartlugo

      Absolutely appalling to learn that there is so much fecal matter in our meat. Doesn’t fully cooking meat get rid of the bacteria?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    Why is the food industry so uncaring? There needs to be major regulation

    • pingpongpete

      It’s called money. The gov is the problem, not the solution. There needs to be no subsidies to the meat and dairy industry. Economics will fix the problem but unfortunately lobbying will never end in DC. People will stop buying meat and dairy when they can’t afford it.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/veganjen/ veganjen

    This is bad but not surprising, unfortunately. It is defies reason why we find the animal industry standards acceptable when it is making people sick and killing people. I found your discussion about chicken and Guillain Barre to be particularly interesting. WOW. I’m a nurse and we do see that from time to time–not terribly common but we see it– and it IS like a horror movie. Another really good reason to avoid chicken (how many do people need??)…..By the way, thanks so much for the work you do on your website. It’s the best of it’s kind I have found. Great information!!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my blog post E. coliO145 Ban Opposed by Meat Industry!

  • vodicka2

    I have Crohns and was wondering how safe is turkey burger I have been having flareups and I so appreciated your video on vegetarian foods. Thank -you Sue Vodicka. I also have addisons disease and colitis yes doing great all around ugh

  • burghgrl

    Dr. Greger,
    Would you please comment on the H.pylori bacteria? Is this also caused, from e.coli? I’ve been dealing with this for over two years, despite twice recieving the “gold standard quadruple drug therapy”. Thank you…you’re the BEST!

  • Zenster

    WoW! Now when you tell someone to eat shit, they can!

  • Kathleen Kreiselmeyer

    Does this include natural & organically raised chicken & turkey?

  • William Tell

    Can you provide perspective on mycotoxins in our food supply? Thank you.