As a growing number health-conscious people turn to ground turkey in their meals, a just-released Consumer Reports' investigation revealed 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," she said.
But a Consumer Reports investigation, led by food-safety expert Urvashi Rangan Ph.D., showed 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. Adding to that was the fact that most of these bacteria proved resistant to antibiotics," said Rangan.
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. The good news is we found less antibiotic-resistance in bacteria from turkeys raised without antibiotics," said Rangan.
Using antibiotics in farm animals was once touted as a great innovation to prevent disease and promote growth.
"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," Rangan said.
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 advised looking for ground turkey labeled either "raised without antibiotics" or "organic."
In a news release, the National Turkey Federation disputed the findings as misleading and alarmist and challenged the methodology of the testing.
According to NTF, Enterococcus and generic E. Coli are not considered sources of foodborne illness. The industry organization also noted that Consumer Reports found almost no prevalence of Salomonella and Campylobacter, two pathogens of public health concern.
NTF also said Consumer Reports was misleading about the significance of its antibiotic findings.