It’s a scary thought: Meats purchased from the local grocery stores; ripe with bacteria and ready to make you sick. A new Consumer Reports test does nothing to ease those fears. According to their data, when analyzing ground turkey products purchased from nationwide grocers, 90 percent of the turkey contained potentially harmful bacteria. Even worse, some of the bacteria found were resistant to antibiotics.
The investigation conducted by Consumer Reports is actually the first that focused specifically on ground turkey. Researchers also found that the turkeys raised without antibiotics in their diets were less likely to contain the antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Farmers often feed animals certain types of antibiotics in order to increase their weight and growth, but the side-effects of those drugs are contributing to the spread of resistant strains of bacteria.
“It’s very concerning that antibiotics fed to turkeys are creating resistance to antibiotics used in human medicine,” said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of the food safety and sustainability group at Consumer Reports. “Humans don’t consume antibiotics every day to prevent disease and neither should healthy animals.”
Researchers tested 257 different kinds of raw turkey, including ground meat and turkey patties. They purchased the turkey from multiple major grocery stores. The meat was tested for five separate strains of bacteria, which are as follows:
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
The Consumer Report test also came up with additional concerns about the turkey which was tested. They found the following:
- 69 percent of the turkey tested contained the bacteria enterococcus. This bacteria is notorious for causing digestive or urinary tract infections in humans.
- 60 percent of the turkey was infected with E. coli, which is one of the most common causes of food-borne illness.
- 80 percent of the turkey infected with enterococcus bacteria were resistant to three or more types of antibiotics.
So, with all that said, what can do to protect yourself when purchasing turkey from your local grocery store?
Experts suggest you purchase turkey products that have the labels “certified organic” or “no antibiotics” on the packages. You are even better off if there is a label on the package that says “USDA Process Verified” on it. This simply means that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has evaluated the farm and its practices, ensuring they are doing what they say they are doing.
Without a doubt, the most important step you can take is cooking your turkey until it reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees internally. As always, when handling raw meats, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.