Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Why did the chicken cross the road?

by Arun Nagpaul, MD

Dear Doc,

One of my friends was recently hospitalized for food poisoning.

He was told he may have eaten some “contaminated” chicken. I love my chicken fried, BBQ or grilled, it doesn’t matter! Is chicken safe for me to eat?

You are not the only one that loves chicken ! 8 billion chickens are consumed in the United States each year ! If you laid head to claw, all the chickens consumed just from the KFCs worldwide, they would circle the Earth 11 times. There are far more chickens in the world then there are humans!

This well consumed poultry bird, the chicken, can run up to 9 miles per hour, can cross breed with turkeys, and on the evolutionary scale is the closest living relative of the tyrannosaurus-rex. The chicken has also become part of the most common riddle man has ever told ! “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The first known printing of this riddle was in 1847 in The Knickerbocker, a New York City, monthly magazine. The original punchline “to get to the other side” has been modified for humor numerous times. My favorite modification, “because he was egged on”.

Other variations replace “side” with another word. “Why did the chicken cross the playground ? To get to the other SLIDE.” Sometimes the chicken is even replaced. “Why did the whale cross the ocean? To get to the other tide.”

Riddles aside, food poisoning and the safety of our food supply is no joking matter. 48 million people fall sick each year from consuming tainted food. Many end up hospitalized. Chicken is one of the most common sources for food poisoning. Consumer Reports recently did a study of more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at stores across the US and found potentially harmful bacteria lurking in almost all of the chicken, including organic brands !
They stated that the most common way people become infected from raw chicken is from cross contamination in the kitchen.

Some argue that the government and the food industry are not doing enough to keep our food supply safe. The lack of inspections, hormones/antibiotics, and corporate greed embedded in our food industry as a cause of unsafe food are explored in an interesting documentary called “Food Inc.”. Consumer advocates say there is more that can be done by others to ensure our food is safe.

But there are things you can do right now to decrease the chances of getting sick from your chicken consumption.

1. Always wash hands, countertops, cutting boards, and utensils used in preparing raw chicken before they come in contact with other foods.
2. Stop washing chicken before cooking. Bacteria can spread up to 3 feet away from the sink.
3. Put chicken in a plastic bag at the store to prevent the juices from contaminating other food.
4. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you are cooking chicken to the recommended 165 degrees.
5. Thaw chicken in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.

A chicken was recently overheard telling a riddle, “Why did the human cross the road? To get to the chicken, of course!” Continue to enjoy your chicken but ensure safe handling and preparation to avoid food poisoning.