Scientists and members of the veterinary and food safety fields are responding to a report linking the E. coli found in chicken and the E. coli that causes human urinary tract infections, saying that chicken is safe and that the claims made may be misleading.

“Bacteria move dynamically, not just in one direction from animals to humans; all pathways must be considered,” said Randall Singer, DVM, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. “The studies in question make the assumption that humans carrying these E. coli acquired them from poultry. The strains did not originate in poultry and likely entered these farms from sources originating in human communities. Perhaps most importantly, the potential transmission of antibiotic-resistant E. coli to humans says nothing about why these E. coli are antibiotic resistant in the first place. The resistances observed in these E. coli are common globally and are unlikely to be attributed to chickens given the few antibiotics available for use in poultry in the U.S.”

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The report also said that, according to the Food and Drug Administration, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to livestock and even healthy chickens — a statistics the National Chicken Council said is not attributable to the FDA and isn't accurate. "Fully 40 percent of the animal antibiotics counted are compounds not used in human medicine, and therefore, their use in animals cannot be compared with those used in humans," said the council.

“While we question the overall conclusions of these findings, the study’s researchers point to improper food handling during meat preparation for food-borne urinary tract infections,” said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., National Chicken Council vice president of science and technology. “So it is always pertinent to remind consumers about the importance of safe food handling and cooking — washing of hands, cutting boards and utensils, cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and preventing cross contamination in the kitchen.”