Crook chooks

Reporter: David Richardson

It's Australia's fastest growing meat. This year, we will eat more than 36 kilograms of chicken each. But there's a downside: food poisoning, and it's a massive nationwide problem.

"I got up this morning and I was just incredibly ill. I have been vomiting and being sick all morning - about ten times. It's just horrible," said Francis.

Francis Croydon was so sick from food poisoning he wasn't able to get out of bed to get to a doctors and he knows exactly what's to blame.

"Chicken wings. I had just bitten into it and it was frozen right to the bone. The flesh wasn't cooked - it was just horrible," added Francis.

"Just the taste of the chicken. It was sour and bitter. Even in the tiniest bit I did have and when I pulled the chicken out of the bag. To my surprise it was green," said Deanne.

Deanne and her partner had chicken every week. Not anymore. She sticks only to red meat now. After she found the inside of a roast chicken was bright green, filled with what she believes is mould, spread through the stuffing and the meat around all the bones.

Deanne bought the chicken from her local Coles as she always has. When she returned the chicken Coles didn't offer a refund or a replacement.

"I just don't think I could trust it again. It would have to be a good shop, I don't think I would buy it from a big supermarket again. You cant trust them," says Deanne.

Karen Dean always bought her chicken from a Woolworths outside Darwin. She'd never had a problem before until she opened her roast chicken portions a couple of days ago and discovered flies.

The dead flies were stuck to a marinade which coated the chicken pieces. Karen complained to the local Woolworths and now the Health Department is investigating. But Karen knows what she's talking about when it comes to food.

"Well I'm a chef by trade. John's a butcher, and we know that's not how food should be. It should smell and taste a lot better than it did," says Karen.

"After I had actually eaten it as I was ripping the bones off the chicken for my dog, I've noticed that there were maggots in my chicken," said Paul.

Paul Cogan found maggots in his roast chicken and chips but not before he'd eaten it.

"For maggots to be maggots it would have to have sat outside a freezer or a fridge. It wasn't put in the right temperatures which is very disgusting."

Craig Andrew-Kabilafkas is a microbiologist, a former food inspector, now consultant. He checks hundreds of food outlets every year and he knows the problems with chickens.

"There's a range of temperatures and time that will adequately cook a chick. The important thing is to make sure it's cooked all the way through," says Craig.

Businesses that specialise in chicken train extensively to avoid any mistakes but not all stores are diligent and that's where the problems arise. Cross contamination, poor cooking, bad handling, worse storage can cause food poisoning bacteria to survive and thrive.

"The most common food poisoning bacteria is campylobactor. It causes about 3-times more food poisoning cases than salmonella. Many people will know salmonella but may not have heard of campylobacter unless they've come in contact with it in an unfortunate way," adds Craig.

This is how we're used to seeing roast chickens - cooked and kept at a steady heat in sealed oven to avoid bacteria but there are fancy new stands that have food experts worried.

Glenn Pinna from Bio-tech Laboratories examined footage of cooked chickens stored in a variety of shops. He worries about this new fancy looking chicken stand.

Bugs like these make five million Australians a year sick costing business more than $1.25 billion a year. That's 2.1 million work days lost and it's preventable if it's done properly.