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Consumer Reports: Most ground turkey harbors fecal bacteria

May 01, 2013|By Ricardo Lopez
  • Consumer Reports says it found fecal bacteria in more than half of the ground turkey samples it tested. Above, turkeys arrive at a processing plant in Arkansas.
Consumer Reports says it found fecal bacteria in more than half of the ground… (Danny Johnston / Associated…)

In its first laboratory analysis of ground turkey sold at retail outlets, Consumer Reports found that more than half tested positive for fecal bacteria. 

The magazine also found that most of the bacteria it found proved resistant to one or more of the antibiotics commonly used to treat them. 

Some turkey-growing operations use antibiotics only to treat illnesses, but other operations give them to their animals daily, Consumer Reports said. 

How much do you know about frozen food?

"That practice, especially prevalent at large feedlots and mass-production facilities, is speeding the growth of drug-resistant superbugs, a serious health concern," the magazine said. "People sickened by those bacteria might need to try several antibiotics before one succeeds."

The National Turkey Federation quickly denounced the study, calling it "alarmist."

"Consumer Reports had the opportunity to foster a serious, thoughtful discussion about food safety, but instead it chose to sensationalize findings and mislead people," said Joel Brandenberger, president of the federation.

Consumer Reports said it tested 257 samples of ground turkey and patties from 21 states for five types of bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. 

Overall, more than 90% of samples tested positive for one or more of the bacteria for which the magazine tested, with 60% harboring E. coli. Three samples tested positive for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to fatal infections.

Ground turkey labeled organic or "raised without antibiotics" were as likely to contain the bacteria the tested for but were less likely to harbor antibiotic-resistant organisms, Consumer Reports said.

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ricardo.lopez@latimes.com

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