90 Percent Chance of Dung in Your Turkey

from Humans are not broken – full article here 90 Percent Chance of Dung in Your Turkey

Consumer Reports has conducted testing to see if the turkey industry has cleaned up its act. It was fewer than 2 years ago that millions of pounds of turkey had to be recalled, because it was tainted with an antibiotic resistant strain of salmonella. One person died and 136 others became ill.

Cargill took immediate steps to correct the problem and avoid future infestations. Basically, they added several more layers of antibacterial spraying:

Since the recall, Cargill has made several enhancements to its food safety programme. These include two additional antibacterial washes, intensifying an existing antibacterial system, disassembling and steam cleaning equipment before resuming ground turkey production, and requiring suppliers of turkey meat to add a new antibacterial wash.

Just one month after reopening the facility in question and with the new procedures in place, another 100,000 pounds of turkey had to be recalled.

Sure, that’s enough to open wounds in consumer confidence, but are you ready for the salt rub down? Consumer Reports says:

Overall, 90 percent of the samples had one or more of the five bacteria for which we tested. Adding to the concern, almost all of the disease-causing organisms in our 257 samples proved resistant to one or more of the antibiotics commonly used to fight them.

See, turkeys and other animals raised commercially are routinely fed antibiotics, whether they’re healthy or not. This is done to keep them healthy and to encourage rapid weight gain.

Unfortunately, it’s also encouraging the quick evolution of drug-resistant super bugs.

Since we already know this, and the industry continues to do feed antibiotics to their animals — legally — it is natural to minimize the potential for major problems.

If it’s such a big problem, we wouldn’t continue doing it.

Well, we don’t do it. The “we” that does do it are a collective of much bigger than life corporations that do not necessarily operate with human prudence, nor goodwill.

Here’s what Consumer Reports found after collecting over 250 retail samples of ground turkey meat:

Sixty-nine percent of ground-turkey samples harboredenterococcus, and 60 percent harbored E. coli. Those bugs are associated with fecal contamination. About 80 percent of the enterococcus bacteria were resistant to three or more groups of closely related antibiotics, as were more than half of the E. coli.

Three samples were contaminated with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause fatal infections.

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports

Ground turkey labeled “no antibiotics,” “organic,” or “raised without antibiotics” was as likely to harbor bacteria as products without those claims. (After all, even meat from organic birds can pick up bacteria during slaughter or processing.) The good news is that bacteria on those products were much less likely to be antibiotic-­resistant superbugs.

Yikes. I guess you could call that good news. Oh, and poop makes for good headlines, so that’s why all of them (even mine) mentions the fecal matter in one way or another. The connection is that some of these bacteria grow in poop.

When we consider all of the variables involved with these massive animal feeding and processing plants, it’s no wonder these problems exist. According to Mike Robach, Cargill’s vice president of corporate food safety and regulatory affairs:

“As we’ve publicly stated over the past year and a half, no stone was left unturned in our efforts to determine the originating source of salmonella Heidelberg associated with the ground-turkey recalls, yet to this day we do not know the origin of the bacteria linked to outbreak of illnesses.”

So what do I do?

  • Purchase non-ground cuts of meat. The grounding process pushes surface bacteria into the meat, where it is more difficult to cook it off.
  • Handle meat with kitchen gloves. Use bags or glass containers in your refrigerator to ensure meat juices don’t leak.
  • Buy organic and no-antibiotic turkey. Sometimes meat you purchase at farmer’s markets are not inspected and cannot carry those labels officially. Talk to your meat vendors about how their animals are raised and processed. Anecdotally, my family has never become sick from meat purchased at farmers markets, to the best of my knowledge. YMMV.
  • Cook ground turkey to at least 165° F.
  • Wash your hands and all surfaces that the raw meat has touched.
  • Don’t use the same plate to take meat out to the grill and return it back to your dinner table.
  • When you purchase meat on shopping trips, purchase it last so you can minimize the amount of non-refrigeration time.

Here’s some of the mainstream media coverage of this story. There’s a great interview with the food safety expert who conducted the study for Consumer Reports investigators at about the minute-forty mark:

Sources: Newsy • Mother Jones • Consumer Reports

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