Stiftung Warentest: germs in chicken meat

Stiftung Warentest: germs in chicken meat

Stiftung Warentest warns of germs in chicken legs

In a current study, the Stiftung Warentest found that almost every second chicken leg tested found the germs to be too high. It was also particularly critical that many of the products tested had germs that had developed resistance to antibiotics. Although chicken meat is never completely free of germs, it should "not exceed critical quantities and not make you sick," emphasizes the Stiftung Warentest.

Due to the massive use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry farming, resistant germs have increasingly formed in the past few years, which now also reach the refrigerated shelves of supermarkets and ultimately the refrigerators of consumers with their chicken legs and the like. An extremely critical development, because immunocompromised people could become infected with the germs and treatment would then be made extremely difficult due to the resistance. The fact that the Stiftung Warentest has detected “bacteria resistant to 12 of the 20 products tested” confirms a development that experts have been warning about for years.

Spread of resistant pathogens via food supply While the spread of resistant germs was initially associated primarily with the hospital sector, it has now become established that animal and poultry fattening farms in particular also play an inglorious role here. For years, experts have therefore been calling for the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry to be reduced. For example, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) takes the position that "the use of antibiotics must be limited to what is absolutely therapeutically necessary" and "efforts to keep the animals healthy so that no treatment is necessary should be in the foreground". A demand that unfortunately has so far mostly not been heard.

Spoilage and disease germs in chicken legs According to their own statements, the Stiftung Warentest has tested the chicken legs "for spoilage and disease germs as well as antibiotic-resistant bacteria" and unfortunately found it very often. Nine of the 20 tested products scored "shortly before or on the date of use microbiologically only sufficiently or poorly," reports the Stiftung Warentest. In two products ("organic poultry" and "Le Marensin"), more listeria were detected than the EU allows. With other bacteria such as pseudomonas or enterobacteria, the guideline or warning values ​​of the German Society for Hygiene and Microbiology were often exceeded. According to the Stiftung Warentest, the testers have also identified Campylobacter in eight products, a pathogen that can cause diarrhea and which is a typical germ in poultry yard residents. In total, only five of the 20 products tested had performed well, "including the chicken legs of three large retail chains," reports the Stiftung Warentest.

Organic products increasingly with germs, but less often with resistant pathogens According to the testers, none of the organic products tested could achieve a good rating. The organic chicken legs all contained a conspicuous amount of spoilage and disease germs, which is why "none of the products tested scored better than satisfactory", reports the Stiftung Warentest. However, it was pleasing to see that organic products are less exposed to antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Resistant germs were only detected in one of the five organic chicken legs tested. The Stiftung Warentest attributes the good result of the organic chicken meat to the significantly lower use of antibiotics during rearing. For example, “organic broilers should only receive the medication once in their short life.” There are no comparable strict rules in conventional agriculture. As a precaution, the entire herd is often treated with antibiotics if individual animals are sick, reports the Stiftung Warentest. A North Rhine-Westphalian government report from 2011 showed that "92 percent of broilers in tested farms received antibiotics."

Health risk from resistant pathogens Due to the easy, mass use of antibiotics, the bacteria become increasingly immune to the antibacterial drugs. One of the pathogens with extensive antibiotic resistance is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). It was proven by the Stiftung Warentest in five chicken legs. In eleven products, the testers discovered intestinal germs “that destroy whole groups of antibiotics with a special enzyme.” Although the resistant germs would normally not harm healthy people, “they can become overwhelmed by immune deficiency, such as age, illness or immunodeficiency drugs increase the size or penetrate blood vessels and organs, ”warns the Stiftung Warentest. Antibiotics-resistant pathogens pose a particular problem in clinics because they can penetrate the organism through open wounds, catheters and cannulas and can cause serious infections.

Shortening the consumption period? In view of the bacterial contamination of numerous samples, the Stiftung Warentest recommends that manufacturers shorten the period of use or the expiry date to ensure that there is no risk from consumption. After the consumption period "you should throw away poultry - then germs have increased so much in spite of the refrigerated shelf and refrigerator that the food can be bad or even sick," emphasizes the Stiftung Warentest. Consumers should be aware of the fact that there can be no sterile chicken legs and that hygiene is therefore all the more important. "So that the germs do not get out of hand, bought legs should be put in the fridge immediately," the testers report. The bacteria would also be killed if cooked or roasted before consumption - even harmful and resistant. If in doubt, the meat should be cooked in the pan for a minute longer than too short. (fp)

Image: Petra Bork /

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