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Consumer Reports Finds Bacteria in Turkey Products

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YONKERS, N.Y.A lab analysis of ground turkey products purchased at retail stores across the United States revealed potentially harmful bacteria for nearly all the samples tested, Consumer Reports magazine revealed in its June 2013 issue.

Of the 257 samples Consumer Reports tested, more than half were associated with fecal contamination while 90% contained one or more of the five bacteria for which they were tested. The magazine also highlighted another troubling finding: nearly all of the disease-causing organisms were resistant to antibiotics that are commonly used to fight them.

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) claimed the findings were misleading. Consumer Reports relied on a miniscule sampling of ground turkey products, cited high levels of pathogens (Enterococcus and generic E. coli) that aren't deemed sources of foodborne illness and tested antibiotics that skew the significance of its findings, according to the turkey industry advocate.

"Consumer Reports  had the opportunity to foster a serious, thoughtful discussion about food safety, but instead it chose to sensationalize findings and mislead people," NTF President Joel Brandenberger said.

The turkey products were tested for the following bacteria: Enterococcus (69% positive sample), E. coli (60%), Staphylococcus aureus (15%), Salmonella (5%) and Campylobacter (0%).

Betsy Booren, chief scientist of the American Meat Institute Foundation, referred to the findings as "extremely encouraging", pointing out that none of the samples contained Campylobacter while only 5% tested positive for Salmonella.

When food safety issues have been linked to ground turkey, they have typically been caused by either Campylobacter or Salmonella. Consumer Reports test results show that the food safety systems used by turkey processors are working to destroy these bacteria," Booren said.

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