Conumer Reports: Ground Turkey Can Harbor Drug-Resistant Superbugs

9:29 PM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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Trying to serve up healthy meals? More and more people are opting for ground turkey instead of beef. Even Burger King has started serving up turkey burgers. Ground turkey can be a better choice. 

But a just-released Consumer Reports' investigation reveals - it can also be a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Dina Fleischman has been trying to cook healthier meals with ground turkey.

"I make meat loaf with it and meatballs, meat sauce for spaghetti. I will use turkey, instead of beef, for any recipe that calls for beef," Fleischman said.

But a Consumer Reports investigation, led by food-safety expert Urvashi Rangan, shows that you when you're talking turkey, you could be getting more than you bargained for.

"Overall, 90 percent of the samples we analyzed had one or more of the five bacteria we looked for," said Dr. Rangan. "Adding to that was the fact that most of these bacteria proved resistant to antibiotics."

Consumer Reports shipped 257 samples of ground turkey to an outside lab. There scientists created a broth with each sample, to analyze. 

More than half of the samples tested positive for the fecal contaminants enterococcus and E. coli, the majority of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

"Some of these bacteria can cause food poisoning and many infections," Dr. Rangan said. "The good news is we found less antibiotic-resistance in bacteria from turkeys raised without antibiotics."

Using antibiotics in farm animals was once touted as a great innovation to prevent disease and promote growth.

"This sort of thing may revolutionize the meat business," Dr. Rangan said. "What we now realize is that giving turkeys and other animals antibiotics is accelerating the growth of drug-resistant superbugs. When people are sickened with these, they can be much harder to treat." 

To kill any bacteria that might be present in ground turkey, you need to cook it thoroughly, to 165 degrees.

You can also minimize your risk by making smart choices when you shop. Consumer Reports says look for ground turkey labeled either "raised without antibiotics" or "organic." 

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