June 30, 2022

Swiss Study Finds Raw Chicken in Hospitals has E. coli

A study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, a publication of the Society for Healthcare epidemiology of America, found that more than 80% of raw chicken that enters the hospital food supply is contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The study tested raw chicken delivered to the central hospital kitchen at the University Hospital of Geneva in Switzerland.

Raw Chicken BreastsThe bacteria is a new antibiotic resistant form called extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) that produces E. coli. Dr. Andrew Stewardson, the lead author of the study said in a statement, “while a high proportion of chicken contaminated by antibiotic resistant E. coli ┬áis a significant concern, robust food safety measures taken by hospital kitchen staff are able to prevent the spread of these pathogens and minimize risk to food handlers, staff, and patients.”

But the problem is that no system is perfect. One mistake could potentially cause a serious outbreak among patients who are already vulnerable to foodborne illness because of compromised immune systems or chronic and acute disease.

The study also found that six of the 93 food workers were ESBL carriers. The researchers concluded that industrial risk management strategies in the hospital kitchen “appear sufficient to minimize risk to food handlers, hospital staff, and patients.” But these conclusions will not apply to ordinary consumer kitchens, where food safety precautions are more often applied haphazardly.

The lesson? Handle all raw meats as if they were contaminated. Do not cross-contaminate. Sanitize all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with raw meat. And wash your hands frequently before, during, and after food preparation.

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