Chicken and ground beef have been named the riskiest meats by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The Center’s study, entitled “Risky Meat: A Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety,” ranked 12 categories of meat and poultry based on their outbreak reports and the likelihood of hospitalizations associated with the pathogens most commonly reported in those foods from 1998 to 2010.

Over the 12 years investigated, chicken and ground beef were awarded the “highest risk” category because chicken had been linked to 452 outbreaks and 6,896 illnesses, and ground beef had been linked to 336 outbreaks and 3,801 illnesses. Steak and turkey were categorized as “high risk.” Barbecue, deli meat, pork and roast beef all fell into the “medium risk” category and chicken nuggets, ham and sausage were “low risk.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), responding to the report, emphasized that initiatives are underway to address the pathogens involved. “We applaud CSPI’s ongoing efforts to educate consumers about food safety,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety. “While we have made progress in making food safer—including  cutting E. coli O157-related illnesses in half, we still have work to do. As Salmonella rates continue to stagnate, we look forward to CSPI’s support, and the support of other groups committed to food safety, of our efforts to reduce this dangerous foodborne pathogen, including modernization of the poultry inspection system.”

The National Chicken Council also responded to the report. “Rigorous food safety standards are applied to all chicken produced in the United States, and all chicken products must meet or exceed these safety standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in order to reach consumers,” said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council. “The bottom line for consumers is that all chicken is safe to eat when properly handled and cooked.”

The full CSPI report is available at