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Study Finds High Pathogen Levels in Ground Turkey

YONKERS, N.Y. — A Consumer Reports study tested 257 samples of raw ground turkey for enterococcus, E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella and campylobacter and found at least one type of bacteria in 90% of ground turkey samples.

The magazine found that eight samples contained salmonella that was resistant to more than one antibiotic, and overall products labeled “no antibiotics” or “organic” contained fewer antibiotic resistant bacteria.


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“Our findings strongly suggest that there is a direct relationship between the routine use of antibiotics in animal production and increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria on ground turkey. It’s very concerning that antibiotics fed to turkeys are creating resistance to antibiotics used in human medicine,” Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Group at Consumer Reports, said in a statement.

However, the National Turkey Federation said the antibiotic resistance was not as dramatic as Consumer Reports made it out to be. Of the drug classes tested, ciprofloxacin has not been used in poultry farming for almost eight years, penicillin and cephalosporin are used infrequently in agriculture, and tetracycline is not utilized often in human medicine.

NFT called the study “alarmist” and tried to offer context for the magazine’s finding that 69% of samples contained enterococcus and 60% contained E. coli, as well as three examples of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

Read more: CDC: Foodborne Illnesses Unchanged Since 2006-2008

"Enterococcus and generic E. coli are everywhere, and there is more than one way they can wind up on food animals. In fact, it's so common in the environment, studies have shown that generic E. coli and MRSA can even be found on about 20% of computer keyboards," NTF Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Lisa Picard said in a statement.

The turkey industry organization also noted that Consumer Reports found no instances of campylobacter and only 5% of its samples contained salmonella, which are the two bacteria most associated with foodborne illness.

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