Alexis Sarti was a cross-country runner in high school. But four years ago, she suffered extensive nerve damage after eating at a California restaurant.

"I still have problems. Ill never be able to run or walk very far," she said.

Alexis sued the restaurant, alleging her food was cross-contaminated with bacteria from raw poultry.

Consumer Reports tested nearly 400 whole broiler chickens at an outside lab, checking for contamination. The chickens were purchased at more than a hundred stores across the U.S.

"We tested for the two leading causes of food-borne illness -- campylobacter and salmonella. Only 34 percent of the chickens had neither bacteria," Kim Kleman said.

Leading chicken brands as well as store and organic brands were included in the tests. Sixty-two per cent of the chicken was contaminated with campylobacter, 14 per cent contained salmonella, and nine per cent had both bacteria.

"Of the name brands, more than 80 per cent of the Tyson and Foster Farms chicken had one or both bacteria," Kleman said. "Perdue was the cleanest -- 56 per cent was free of the bacteria."

The problem isn't limited to U.S. chickens. A 2008 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada found both bacteria on chicken meat purchased in British Columbia between 2005 and 2008. As many as 69 per cent of the samples tested positive for campylobacter and 32 per cent had salmonella.

No matter what chicken you buy, you need to take precautions:

  • Buy chicken that's well wrapped.
  • Pick from the bottom of the case, where it should be the coolest.
  • Also, put it in a produce bag so you don't cross-contaminate other foods.
  • Once home, use a cutting board that's just for raw poultry and meat.

Make sure to use hot, soapy waters before prepping chicken, and also for any washing and drying. Make sure to clean anything the raw chicken might have touched.

And whether you're cooking chicken, turkey or beef, use a meat thermometer to be sure it's cooked properly. Poultry should be 180 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest part of the thigh. Stuffing should be at least 165 degrees.

Alexis Sarti won her lawsuit and says she hopes no one will ever have to endure what she's been through.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen