Turkey Products Suffer Very High Contamination Levels

A series of recalls may have been the inspiration behind new research into the safety of turkey products in the United States. A random sampling of ground turkey products from retails stores all over the country revealed that 90 percent of the turkey samples were contaminated with bacteria. Further, the study showed that the use of antibiotics in turkey feed may be producing turkeys with increasing levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The study was conducted by the food safety and sustainability group of Consumer Reports.

While not all of the bacteria discovered on the turkey are of the types that produce food borne illness, many of the samples did contain Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria that are known risks. In total, 257 different turkey products were tested. Among the samples of raw ground turkey and patties, almost 50 percent contained fecal bacteria. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets limits for what level of bacterial contamination is too great for a product to be deemed safe. A product that tested positive for contamination may not contain levels sufficiently great to warrant a recall.

Consumer Reports has recommended that the USDA reduce the levels of salmonella allowed in turkey products. Further, the director of the group responsible for the research expressed concern over the “routine use of antibiotics in animal production.” Organic turkey products, which do not use turkeys treated with antibiotics, had the same alarming rate of bacterial infection, but were much less likely to contain bacteria-resistant strains.

Source: Medical News Today, “Nearly 90% Of U.S. Turkey Products Contaminated,” by Joseph Nordqvist, 2 May 2013