Salmonella bacteria are pervasive in much U.S. chicken, and sicken an estimated 1 million people a year.
"At every step along the way, some of [the newborn chickens from a farm in West Virginia] were infected with salmonella, a pathogen that lives in the intestinal tracts of birds and other animals and can easily spread. Invisible, tasteless and odorless, it doesn’t make the chickens sick. But transferred to humans, it can lead to salmonellosis — an infection that causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, and, in severe cases, can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream.
It sickens an estimated 1 million people annually, and is the most commonly reported foodborne illness. The incidence of salmonella infection has remained stubbornly high even as foodborne illnesses have been dropping over the past 15 years. Included among those that have declined is listeria, although that pathogen has been implicated in the current deadly outbreak of infections from cantaloupe traced to a farm in Colorado. More than 70 people in 18 states have gotten ill so far, and at least 15 have died."
Jeffrey Benzing, Esther French, and Judah Ari Gross report for the Washington Post October 1, 2011.