A Consumer Reports study estimating that some 90% of raw ground turkey contains at least one of five harmful strains of bacteria was quickly dismissed by the National Turkey Federation Tuesday, which called the report "alarmist."
The study tested 257 samples of raw ground turkey products for enterococcus, E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella and campylobacter. The products were purchased from stores in 21 states and include both national and store brands.
Of the samples tested, 69% had enterococcus bacteria present and 60% tested positive for presence of E. coli. Salmonella was also found in 5% of the samples tested. On three samples, staphylococcus aureus was detected.
Of the bacteria found, Consumer Reports said the staphylococcus bacteria were methicillin-resistant; two-thirds of salmonella bacteria found were multi-drug resistant, and about 80% of the enterococcus bacteria were resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics, as were more than half of the E. coli bacteria found.
Consumer Reports said that overall, bacteria on ground turkey products labeled "no antibiotics," "organic," or "raised without antibiotics" were resistant to fewer antibiotics than bacteria found on conventional products. The group said this finding shows that there is a relationship between the use of antibiotics in animal production and increased antibiotic resistance on ground turkey.
Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of the Food Safety and Sustainability group at Consumer Reports, said in a press statement 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," he said. "Prudent use of antibiotics should be required to stem the public health crisis generated from the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics."
But the National Turkey Federation is countering the findings of the study by challenging its methodology, explaining that it makes "a number of alarming claims based on an extremely small sampling of ground turkey products."