E-Coli is known to be the most common cause of Urinary Tract Infection, responsible for up to 90% of cases. However, it was only recently discovered by genetically fingerprinting the E-Coli from infections that it showed strong genetic similarities to the strains found in abattoir slaughtered chickens indicating that the infection is likely to be caused by cross-contamination. Many of identified E-Coli strains have developed antibiotic resistance due to the excessive use of antibiotics in factory-farming. Antibiotics have been prescribed for a long time in farming to help quickly increase the weight of chickens and to treat the effects of cramped conditions.
E.coli O157:H7 can produce a harmful toxin that causes severe diarrhoea, and is considered a very serious condition in particular if the elderly or young are affected. This strain can damage red blood cells, the kidneys and other organs. In ten per cent of children, E. coli infection leads to Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which is one of the leading causes of acute kidney failure in children.
E.coli is difficult to avoid and gaining a superbug status with the most likely reason being bacterial resistance as a result of overuse in an agricultural context. Recently the Telegraph reported that two in three chickens sold in British supermarkets are infected with E.coli superbug, highlighting the risks involved when handling raw meat.
How to Reduce the Risks Associated with Chicken
- When you buy chicken, immediately put it in a separate bag so that the juices do not contaminate other foods in your shopping.
- Chicken should be kept cold as bacteria thrive in warm conditions. Keep your fridge temperature at 5°C or below.
- In order to defrost frozen chicken, put it in a sealed container on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that it does not drip onto other foods.
- Throw chicken away if it has been at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Do not let raw chicken come into contact with any raw foods such as salad/vegetables.
- Before and immediately after preparing chicken, wash your hands thoroughly in soapy water.
- Surfaces, taps, chopping boards, cooking utensils, door handles should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent cross-contamination.