REFILE-Contaminated ground turkey found in 21 states-report

Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:46pm EDT

(Fixes headline to show turkey is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria)

* FDA says "major public health threat"

* Dangerous bacteria found on 90 percent of turkey tested

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, April 30 (Reuters) - Dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been found in ground turkey on U.S. grocery shelves across a variety of brands and stores located in 21 states, according to a report by a consumer watchdog organization.

Of the 257 samples of ground turkey tested, more than half were found to be positive for fecal bacteria and overall, 90 percent were contaminated with one or more types of disease-causing organisms, many of which proved resistant to one or more common antibiotics, Consumer Reports found.

The non-profit, independent product-testing organization said in the June issue of its magazine that the sampling marked the first time it had conducted a laboratory analysis of ground turkey, a popular consumer alternative to hamburger. It was alarmed by the results.

"Some bacteria that end up on ground turkey, including E. coli and staph aureus, can cause not only food poisoning but also urinary, bloodstream, and other infections," said a Consumer Reports statement on its findings.

The group said it samples ground turkey from 27 different brands including major and store brands.

Turkeys, like other livestock in the United States, are commonly given repeated low doses of antibiotics in an effort to keep the animals healthy and help promote growth. But there has been growing concern that widespread use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick is speeding the development of antibiotic resistance.

The National Turkey Federation said the findings were sensationalized on a sampling that was "extremely small," and said that blaming use of antibiotics in animals was "misleading."

"There is more than one way they (harmful bacteria) can wind up on food animals," said National Turkey Federation vice president Lisa Picard. "In fact, it's so common in the environment, studies have shown that generic E.coli and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) can even be found on about 20 percent of computer keyboards."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also found widespread contamination, discovering antibiotic resistant E coli, salmonella and other harmful bacteria in turkey, ground beef, pork chops and chicken in sampling done in 2011.

The food safety regulator says resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is "a major public health threat," and last year issued voluntary guidelines for animal health and animal agriculture industries aimed at limiting the antibiotic use in livestock. The agency has rebuffed efforts to mandate reduced usage, however.

U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, last month reintroduced legislation that would ban non-therapeutic uses of eight types of antibiotics in food animal production.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has issued a warning about antibiotic resistance infections, saying they are becoming increasingly difficult to treat and more infected people are likely to die.

"Humans don't consume antibiotics every day to prevent disease and neither should healthy animals," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Group at Consumer Reports. "Prudent use of antibiotics should be required to stem the public health crisis generated from the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics." (Reporting By Carey Gillam; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
lipton wrote:
Of course there is nasty bugs in animal meat. Logically one cooks it thoroughly prior to eating, thus negating the presence of nasty bugs by killing them with heat.

As far as the fact that these bacterium are resistant to antibiotics, is anyone really lost as to how that happens? Introduce into a closed population (such as a herd of cows) and constantly pump them with antibiotics designed to kill the nasty bugs that are passed between the cows a hundred times over like the clap in Saigon and eventually you have this mess; antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

There isn’t too many viable choices to this, but they all have pit falls:
-We could eat less meat. This in turn would lower herd sizes, lowering transmission rates and immunization cycles. Smaller herds mean smaller returns for farmers so meat prices will increase and overall livestock farmer numbers will drop.
-Adopt a less mechano-farm way of life. Accept that animals get sick and eventually get over it, but there will be losses, so prices will increase.
-Animals also get sick less often when allowed to roam, rather than live in cramped quarters, but free range is more expensive to manage, thus increasing costs again.
-Smaller slaughterhouses located closer to their final destination. 24 hour operations are notoriously difficult to keep clean and trucking meat to the store is full of variables, mainly temperature variances that allow bacteria to multiply. Smaller facilities closer to consumers negates this, but once again they are more expensive to operate.
-Become a vegan. But even then you’re not immune to whatever feces lies lurking under the nails of the illegal alien that picked your fruit and vegetables. The end result is still disease and a more expensive grocery bill.

It’s a scary world out there.

May 01, 2013 1:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
justherenow wrote:
Animals raised for meat are given more than just antibiotics. This has been known for a long time. I think that there ought to be more oversight to at least regulate the use of antibiotics. However, I see great resistance to something like this in the business of raising poultry for mass consumption.

May 01, 2013 2:01am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.