August 16, 2018

Consumer Reports Finds Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria on Ground Turkey

An investigation by Consumer Reports has found that more than half of raw ground turkey meat and patties sold at retail stores in the U.S. tested positive for fecal bacteria. Ninety percent of all samples tested had one or more of the five bacteria the organization tested for, including Enterococcus, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.

PetriIn addition, almost all of the pathogens were resistant to one or more of the antibiotics used to fight them. This, once again, raises the alarm about giving factory farmed animals sub therapeutic doses of antibiotics to encourage growth and prevent illness.

The study found that 69% of ground turkey had Enterococcus, and 60% had E. coli, the two bacteria associated with fecal contamination. More than half of the E. coli bacteria were resistant to three or more groups of closely related antibiotics, and 80% of the Enterococcus bacteria were resistant. Three samples were contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Unfortunately, ground turkey labeled “no antibiotics”, “organic”, or “raised without antibiotics” was as likely to harbor bacteria as products without those claims, but the bacteria on those turkey products were much less likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

The bacteria on ground turkey can also cause other infections in human beings, including urinary and bloodstream infections. Consumers Union, the advocacy group of Consumer Reports, wants the FDA to ban all antibiotics in animal production except used specifically to treat illness.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans are in place to limit contamination of bacteria on the food we eat. But HACCP plans do not completely eliminate bacteria. For instance, Salmonella is permitted in up to half of the ground turkey samples that FSIS tests at processors’ plants. If the turkey is improperly handled or not thoroughly cooked, consumers can easily become ill.

Consumer Reports recommends that you buy organic turkey raised without antibiotics. Understand that no raw meat is risk free, and that some sort of pathogenic bacteria is probably present on the meat you buy. Always cook ground meats to 165 degrees F to kill pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, and check the temperature with a food thermometer. And follow safe cooking techniques; wash hands frequently, avoid cross-contamination, and refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.

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