Chicken Poisoning

Reporter: Lynda Kinkade

It rules our dinner plates and lightens our wallets. We buy $4.5 billion worth of chicken every year, eating nearly 37 kilograms of it per person.

But our favourite white meat has a dark side. "Chicken is definitely one of the worst culprits when it comes to food poisoning", said dietician, Kyann Calvi.

Close to five and a half million of us suffer a bout of food poisoning every year and it costs the nation $1.2 billion. 486,000 cases are specifically linked to chicken.

Kyann knows naturally occurring bacteria easily spreads and multiplies if it is not prepared, handled and stored correctly. "Always work with clean hands, clean utensils and clean boards; and never, ever prepare any other food where you've prepared your raw meats", Kyann said.

A poorly prepared take-away chicken salad left Valerie Hobbs in excruciating pain and paralysed. Despite the symptoms, doctors failed to recognise the severity of her illness, instead sending her home with pain killers - repeatedly. "I actually had 6 doctors in all before I was admitted", Valerie said.

Eventually Valerie was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome -her particular strain caused by bacteria -- under-cooked chicken was the number one suspect. "It was definitely the chicken and I don't eat chicken any more. I will not touch chicken at all, I don't care how well it's cooked, and I used to eat lots of chicken", she said.

It is important to cook it thoroughly, so make sure the meat is actually white - no pink meat - and making sure the juices run clear if you pierce the chicken", Kyann said.

In years gone by, the traditional Aussie dinner most likely consisted of beef or lamb -- the expense of chicken made it a once-in-a-blue-moon treat. But consumption has been rising steadily for 50 years and prices have fallen dramatically.

So much so, it is now our most popular and cheapest meat costing, on average, $5.30 a kilo compared to $16 for beef; $13.20 for pork; and $12.50 a kilo for lamb. "We've improved the birds to the point where they now need less feed to produce the same amount of meat, they grow faster and therefore they are cheaper to produce", The Australian Chicken Meat Foundation's, Andreas Dubbs.

Andreas says prices have come down due to selective breeding, no t the use hormones or steroids. "The myth that we use hormones is a myth and that's all it is. We haven't used hormones for the last 50 years, in fact it's not allowed in the poultry industry to be used", Andreas said.

That doesn't stop 75% of us believing the lie and unlike the EGG producing industry, ."There are no cages used, there never have been and there never will be cages used in the production of chicken meat", he added.

Our poultry industry employs 40,000 people, many of them working at the 800 commercial chicken farms sprinkled around the country. Industry heavyweights, Inghams and Baiada, serve about two thirds of the total market. "Chicken meat is clearly a product people like. I think it suits our lifestyle, it's versatile, it has nutritional quality to it and it's healthy", Andreas said.

Whether it's barbequed or oven roasted, fried or poached, store bought or cooked at home -- we can't get enough.

And no wonder -- chicken is low in fat, high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. But remember, the style of chicken you eat can change everything. "Fried chicken is obviously the highest in fat, particularly if you keep the skin on -- you're looking around 20 - 25 grams of fat per serve", Kyann said.

"A chicken from the supermarket, done on a rotisserie, we're looking at around 10 to 12 grams of fat with the skin on, 6 to 8 with it off, per piece. The charcoal chicken with the skin on, looking at 12 grams per piece, per 100 gram portion", Kyann said.

"The chicken breast, skin off you're looking at roughly 5 grams of fat to bake or grill, if you had it with the skin on you're looking at 12 grams of fat, so it's a considerable difference -- it is the leanest part of the chicken, provided you have the skin off", she said.

Further Information:

Bacteria are naturally present in raw meats so to prevent them from spreading and multiplying you need to follow a number of simple rules.

TIPS FOR KEEPING THE BACTERIA AT BAY:

* Always wash you hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after

handling raw meats

* Ensure the kitchen, fridge, freezer, all preparation surfaces and storage

containers are clean during the food preparation process

* Make sure you separate raw and cooked foods both in the fridge and during

the preparation process. For example, raw chicken should be

adequately contained in it's packaging/on a plate with plastic wrap

firmly covering it or in an airtight container and placed on the bottom

shelf of the fridge so that raw chicken juices cannot drip onto other

foods that can be eaten. It's also important to use different utensils and

chopping boards for preparing raw meats than those used for preparing

other foods to prevent bacterial contamination.

* Don't wash the chicken, all you are doing is washing the bacteria into the

sink, bench tops etc

* Never ever defrost your chicken on the bench top or in the sink at room

temperature, defrost it in the refrigerator or the microwave. Make sure

it is completely defrosted before cooking it and that means making sure

there are no ice crystals in the body cavity and that legs and thighs are

soft and move easily

* Always make sure chicken is thoroughly cooked before serving/eating

(when thickest part of meat reaches 75 degrees). Your chicken is

thoroughly cooked when the meat is no longer pink and the meat juices

run clear when pierced at the thickest part of the meat

Don't store your chicken in the refrigerator for more than 2-3 days, minced

poultry should not be stored for longer than one day.

* Freeze fresh chicken as soon as possible to ensure quality and prevent

deterioration of the product.

* Cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days below 4

degrees. Wait until the steam has evaporated before storing the

chicken in the fridge.

* Never freeze leftover chicken if the chicken was frozen and defrosted before

you cooked it!

* The danger zone for chicken (and other meats) is between 5 and 60

degrees, so refrigerate chicken below 4 degrees, freeze below -

15degrees and if you've cooked it then keep it steaming hot (above

60degrees)! Do not keep perishable foods at room temperature for

more than 2 hours!

HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHICKEN

Chicken is a highly nutritious food that is packed with vitamins and minerals. It's an excellent source of protein and provides zinc and iron as well as being a good source of the B Vitamin Niacin. It is lower in total fat than other meats and without its skin it is also lower in saturated fats than other meats.

Because chicken is high in protein it helps you to feel full and satisfied, therefore you are less likely to continue snacking after your meal.

HOW DIFFERENTLY PREPARED CHICKEN AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH

Lean skinless chicken is definitely the best option - the fat is concentrated in the thighs and the wings and of course when you add skin, oil from frying or rich sauces (such as butter chicken or coconut cream in a chicken curry) you're only adding to the total energy and fat content. Consistently high intake of fat and energy leads to weight gain, heart disease and stroke and increases the likelihood of developing diabetes.

FAT CONTENT OF CHICKEN FROM HIGHEST TO LOWEST FAT

Fried - KFC original recipe breast 21g fat (vs 2g fat without breading or skin), thigh 24g, wing 8g

Commercial chicken leg quarter lean and skin 1130kj, fat 18.6, chol 92mg, Na 190mg

McDonalds Chicken McNuggets per 100g 1180kj, fat 18.2g, chol 100mg, na 370mg

KFC nuggets 106g, fat 16.5g

Drumstick baked with skin 1000kj, fat 15mg, chol 151mg, Na 91mg

Chicken breast baked with skin per 100g 913kj, fat 12.7g, chol 99mg Na 59mg

Breast with skin grilled 915kj 12.5g fat

Commercial rotisserie (eg. Charcoal) breast quarter lean and skin 901kj, fat 12.3g, chol 75mg, Na 180

Wing with skin cooked 750 kj, 12g fat,

Drumstick baked lean 873kj, fat 10.6g, chol 154, Na 96mg,

Wing without skin cooked 690kj, 10g fat

Thighs - skin on cooked 8g fat,

Thighs skin off cooked 6g fat

Breast quarter no skin BBQd per 100g 6g fat

Breast baked lean without skin per 100g 660kj 4.8g chol 92mg, Na 63mg,

Note variances between portion sizes

To put things into perspective 6 nuggets (~1,200kj) = roughly the same amount of fat and energy from a small serve of hot chips or a 55g chocolate bar. A quarter or rotisserie barbequed chicken is not far behind so don't be fooled into thinking your buying a healthy choice!

HEALTHY CHICKEN DISHES

Skinless chicken can be used in stir fries, salads, pasta (no creamy sauces), slow cooked dishes

The breast is the leanest portion of the chicken and if you are tyring to make a healthy low fat version make sure you poach, steam, grill, BBQ or dry bake. and remove skin, drain fat or avoid creamy sauces or high fat dressings/accompaniments

Many herbs and spices complement chicken but try to steer clear of too much salt, especially if you have high cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes.

The least healthy options are chicken pieces that are deep fried, crumbed and fried or lathered in fats and oils for example, Parmagiana and Chicken Kiev

Why not try some of these healthy low fat dishes this summer:

Chicken fajitas

Chicken pita pizzas

Chicken and vegetable kebabs

Barbequed Chicken marinated in lemon and pepper