Foodborne Illness: Contaminated Ground Turkey in 21 States

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Raising concern about potential foodborne illness, a consumer organization reports that ground turkey that has been contaminated with dangerous bacteria has been found in 21 states.

Consumer Reports tested 257 samples of ground turkey and found that over half of the samples tested were positive for fecal bacteria. Overall, 90 percent of the ground turkey tested was found to be contaminated with one or more types of bacteria, many of which are resistant to antibiotics. E. coli and staph aureus were two of the organisms found.

This testing is the first time that Consumer Reports has analyzed ground turkey in laboratory. Consumer Reports tested 27 different brands of ground turkey, including store and major brands.

In an effort to keep them healthy and to promote faster growth, turkeys are routinely given low doses of antibiotics. Experts have expressed concern that the practice of giving antibiotics to animals that are not sick is accelerating the development of antibiotic resistance. Recently, Louise Slaughter, a U.S. representative from New York, reintroduced legislation that would prohibit “non-therapeutic” use of many types of antibiotics in food animals.

In sampling done in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found widespread contamination by E. coli, salmonella and other bacteria in turkey, pork chops, chicken and ground beef. Although the agency states that antibiotic resistant bacteria is “a major public health threat” it opposes a ban on antibiotic usage, calling instead on voluntary limitations of antibiotics in livestock.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned that antibiotic resistant infections are becoming more difficult to treat, saying that more people are likely to die as a result.

Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports Director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Group, said “Humans don’t consume antibiotics every day to prevent disease and neither should healthy animals. Prudent use of antibiotics should be required to stem the public health crisis generated from the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics.”

“Contaminated ground turkey found in 21 states” Reuters, May 1, 2013