An analysis of randomly selected turkey products revealed that almost 90 percent of samples contained some form of dangerous bacteria. As the first-ever laboratory analysis of ground turkey at retail stores across the country, the researchers found that almost half of raw ground meat and patties packages were infected with fecal bacteria.

Some of the samples were positive for germs which can cause foodborne illness, such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.

The researchers identified that turkeys fed antibiotics harbored more antibiotic-resistant bacteria than the other poultry.

Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of the food safety and sustainability group at Consumer Reports, said:

"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. Humans don't consume antibiotics every day to prevent disease and neither should healthy animals."

The study included a total of 257 different kinds of turkey products, they were each tested for bacteria that cause food borne illnesses.

An astonishing 90 percent of the meat products tested had at least one of the five potentially dangerous bacteria.

According to Consumer Reports:

The current Salmonella standard isn't strict enough. The USDA should allow no more than 12% contamination in ground-­turkey samples.

In addition, the researchers found that almost all of the infected samples were resistant to antibiotics.

5 percent of the samples were contaminated with Salmonella, a bacteria that causes serious illness.

Virologists and bacteriologists are becoming increasingly concerned with mass-production livestock facilities, because they increase the prevalence of drug-resistant superbugs. These organisms can cause life-threatening infections in vulnerable patients, whose doctors have fewer and fewer available treatment options.

Many of the turkey products were contaminated with bugs associated with fecal contamination:
  • 60 percent of the samples contained enteroccus
  • 60 percent were contaminated with Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • 80 percent were tainted with Enterococcus bacteria
  • More than half of the E. coli were resistant to various different commonly used antibiotics
The researchers identified three samples that were contaminated with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be fatal.

Even though organic turkey was found to harbor just as much bacteria as the other turkey products, they were much less likely to have drug-resistant bacteria in them. Consumer Reports advises consumers to seriously consider switching to organic turkey products.

Turkey products contaminated with Salmonella pose a threat

Contaminated food products can be a major cause of food borne infections, such as Salmonella.

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said:

"Although foodborne infections have decreased by nearly one-fourth in the past 15 years, more than 1 million people in this country become ill from Salmonella each year."

A Vital Signs CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report revealed that cases of Salmonella infection (known as salmonellosis) have risen by 15% between 1996 and 2010 in the USA, over the same period E. coli O157 infections have fallen by nearly half, while six foodborne infections have dropped overall by 23%.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist