Antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in ground turkey in 21 states,report finds
Published May 01, 2013
Dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been found in groundturkey on U.S. grocery shelves across a variety of brands and stores located in21 states, according to a report by a consumer watchdog organization.
Of the 257 samples of ground turkey tested, more than half werefound to be positive for fecal bacteria and overall, 90 percent werecontaminated with one or more types of disease-causing organisms, many of whichproved resistant to one or more common antibiotics, Consumer Reports found.
The non-profit, independent product-testing organization said inthe June issue of its magazine that the sampling marked the first time it hadconducted a laboratory analysis of ground turkey, a popular consumeralternative 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 onits findings.
The group said it samples ground turkey from 27 different brandsincluding major and store brands.
Turkeys, like other livestock in the United States, are commonlygiven repeated low doses of antibiotics in an effort to keep the animalshealthy and help promote growth. But there has been growing concern thatwidespread use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick is speeding thedevelopment of antibiotic resistance.
The National Turkey Federation said the findings weresensationalized on a sampling that was "extremely small," and saidthat blaming use of antibiotics in animals was "misleading."
"There is more than one way they (harmful bacteria) can windup on food animals," said National Turkey Federation vice president LisaPicard. "In fact, it's so common in the environment, studies have shownthat generic E.coli and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) caneven be found on about 20 percent of computer keyboards."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also found widespreadcontamination, discovering antibiotic resistant E coli, salmonella and otherharmful bacteria in turkey, ground beef, pork chops and chicken in samplingdone in 2011.
The food safety regulator says resistance of bacteria toantibiotics is "a major public health threat," and last year issuedvoluntary guidelines for animal health and animal agriculture industries aimedat limiting the antibiotic use in livestock. The agency has rebuffed efforts tomandate reduced usage, however.
U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, last monthreintroduced legislation that would ban non-therapeutic uses of eight types ofantibiotics in food animal production.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has issued awarning about antibiotic resistance infections, saying they are becomingincreasingly difficult to treat and more infected people are likely to die.
"Humans don't consume antibiotics every day to prevent diseaseand neither should healthy animals," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director ofthe Food Safety and Sustainability Group at Consumer Reports. "Prudent useof antibiotics should be required to stem the public health crisis generatedfrom the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics."