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Articles by Eric Burkett

Eric is a food writer, freelance journalist, and professional cook in San Francisco. He has worked for newspapers in California and Alaska, where he covered Sarah Palin's city hall back when she was still mayor of Wasilla and no one had any clue what lay in store years ahead. He blogs for and is a regular contributor to He writes about cooking on his own blog at, and hates the texture of mushrooms. Really.

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(USDA photo)

If you’ve ever fallen ill with a case of food poisoning, Big Food would like you to know that it’s probably your fault.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new safety compliance guidelines for the poultry industry. They’re notable for several reasons: they drastically reduce the allowable levels of salmonella present and, for the first time, they address the issue of campylobacter, the second leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States after salmonella.

Current standards, for example, allow for up to 20 percent of poultry carcasses to carry salmonella. If adopted, the new guidelines — they’re in the public comment phase right now — will reduce that figure to 7.5 percent, or no more than 5 positive sample tests out of 51.

Want to hear some more encouraging news? The country’s poultry producers are, for the most part, beating those standards by coming in with an average contamination rate of 7.1 percent — according to the industry’s leading trade and advocacy group, at any rate.

Organizations such as the National Chicken Council and the Americ... Read more

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