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ABC Cries ‘Super Bug,’ Chicken Industry Cries Foul

Moving on from “pink slime” attack on beef, Jim Avila targets the poultry industry with an unproven theory.

ABC’s Jim Avila has halted his crusade against “pink slime,” after costing 1,500 jobs. Now he’s moved on to the chicken industry with the same kind of scary tone to his story. This one is warning of another health crisis that apparently puts all of us at risk: “super bugs.” Like “pink slime,” the very term “super bug” is designed to cause damage to the industry without any proof of harm.

The actual ABC news segment contained no feedback from anyone who disagreed. Avila barely mentioned that the poultry industry has criticized the idea. While the article that ABC listed on its site along with the video did mention the chicken industry’s skepticism and even linked back to the National Chicken Council’s rebuttal of their argument, so clearly ABC was aware of its own failure in reporting.

The super bug, according to an ABC news report, is a strain of bacteria in chicken that can lead to urinary tract infections in women. But, according to ABC, “researchers acknowledge that there is no study showing a definitive link between the E.coli in chicken and infection in women, but point out that a study like that would be unethical because it would require intentionally exposing women to the bacteria.”

In other words, the study can’t be done, but people should assume that the results of that never-done study are valid. Not only valid, but of deep and vital concern to everyone.

During the segment, Avila interviewed Maryn McKenna for her research, citing that she had talked to experts and analyzed research on the topic. And she had. For the book that she wrote which is now available for purchase. Nicknamed the “Scary Disease Girl,” McKenna has, according to her own bio, been fascinated with the topic of germs and diseases for years. Her book, “Superbug, The fatal menace of MRSA” addresses this very topic, and comes up quickly in a Google search for the term “super bug.” Basically, ABC has given free advertising to McKenna to promote an unprovable theory.

Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., the National Chicken Council vice president of science and technology, pointed out in a press release that even if there were a super bug, it would be avoidable through “proper cooking and handling of poultry products, because all bacteria, resistant or not, are killed by proper cooking.”

The NCC wrote to Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, in June, when she was pushing legislation to restrict the use of antibiotics on poultry farms “citing several published, peer-reviewed risk assessments showing any threat to human health from antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production is negligible, and pointed out many of the bacterial illnesses becoming resistant to antibiotics in human medicine have little or no link to antibiotic use in food animals.”

It’s important to see Avila’s attack on chicken in context. Before the “super bug” he was doing “pink slime” stories. The ABC News Senior National Correspondent recently launched a crusade against what those in the beef industry call “lean finely textured beef,” which is made up of beef that is just harder to get at. It requires special processing so the meat isn’t lost. It’s treated to get rid of the fat and included with the rest of the ground beef. The USDA declares it healthy, but it is less expensive. As an added bonus, it is treated tiny amounts of ammonium hydroxide to make it safer to eat.

Avila’s attack on the beef industry resulted in the loss of more than 1,500 jobs in two companies. Will this attack on chicken lead to even more?