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Consumer Reports Ground Turkey Testing Shows Remarkable Food Safety Profile for Nutritious Product

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

 Washington, DC – Microbiological testing of ground turkey conducted by Consumer Reports yielded findings that show a high level of turkey safety.  While the magazine chooses to focus today’s story on four bacteria their labs did find, the more important story is about the pathogenic bacteria of public health concern that they didn’t find or found at remarkably low levels.

Specifically, 257 samples of ground turkey were purchased in 21 states.  None of the 257 samples were positive for Campylobacter and only five percent were positive for Salmonella – one tenth the regulatory limit of 49 percent.

“These findings are extremely encouraging,” said AMI Foundation Chief Scientist Betsy Booren.  “When food safety issues have been linked to ground turkey, they have typically been caused by either Campylobacter or Salmonella. Consumer Reports test results show that the food safety systems used by turkey processors are working to destroy these bacteria.”

While Consumer Reports touts their finding of Enterococcus bacteria in ground turkey, just last week, the Food and Drug Administration said publicly that this bacterium is not considered to cause foodborne illness in people.  Likewise, positive findings for generic E. coli are to be expected because this bacterium exists widely in nature, but rarely causes illness.  In fact, the same levels might be found if 257 people were tested.  Moreover, while meat and poultry processors track generic E. coli in plants because it can provide some useful information to help them evaluate their processes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks the pathogenic or “disease causing” forms of E. coli rather than this generic strain, which is not considered a pathogenic bacteria.

While the article attempts to make much of the fact that some detected bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, it’s important to note that just last week, the director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in a letter to the New York Times said, “Antibiotic resistance is a serious and complex issue. It is an oversimplification to conclude that resistance in any bacterium is problematic for human health. Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain drugs…describing bacteria that are resistant to one, or even a few, drugs as ‘superbugs’ is inappropriate. Rather, ‘superbugs’ are pathogens that can cause severe disease and are very difficult to treat.”

“The U.S. meat and poultry industry supports the judicious use of antibiotics. The American Meat Institute recognizes that concerns exist and supports efforts now under way to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion,” Booren said.

“While it is the industry’s goal to eliminate bacteria that can cause foodborne disease, there is simply no way to destroy all bacteria on all raw products.   Consumers should be reassured that all bacteria, whether antibiotic resistant or not, are destroyed by thorough cooking,” Booren added.  “The companies that comprise the meat and poultry industry are proud to provide a wide array of safe meat and poultry choices that are produced in various ways – from conventional, to natural to organic – to satisfy the needs and preferences of our customers.”



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