"Lab analysis of ground turkey bought at retail stores across the country found more than half of the packages tested positive for fecal bacteria."
Here is my problem with this; I'm sure this is going to gross a lot of people out but here it is, almost every unprocessed food that you put into your mouth has some amount of "fecal bacteria" on it. There's really no way to get around that. If you went and swabbed apples or bananas or any kind of fruit &/or vegetable you would find those same bacteria. You would also find it in other meat products (not just turkey) and eggs. Milk is pretty safe since it's pasteurized but most other foods that we consider "unprocessed, whole foods" are not. So if that is the case how is it that we don't get sick when we eat those products? It's all about a numbers game. As long as you consume less than the amount known to cause illness, this is referred to as the "infectious dose," then you will be fine.
The bacteria they were looking for in the turkey meat for this article were; Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus* & Campylobacter (*in the article it says "staphylococcus aureus enterococcus" which doesn't exist so I'm assuming they just meant Staph. aureus ?) According to the CDC Salmonella is the #1 cause of both hospitalizations & death in the US from food-borne illness. Pretty important thing to monitor. But if you look at the actual numbers it's 20,000 hospitalizations & 378 deaths. Sounds like a lot until you compare that to how many people are killed by automobiles. In 2010 there were 32,885 people killed in auto accidents. Perspective can really make a difference sometimes. Salmonella also has a rather high infectious dose of 1 million to 1 billion organisms before it will make a healthy adult sick since it is sensitive to acid. Campylobacter comes in at #3 in hospitalizations & #5 in deaths. Next they mention Staph. aureus which is neither in the top 5 of hospitalizations or deaths so that doesn't seem very relevant to me. I'm not saying these food-borne illnesses aren't a problem & shouldn't be monitored. I'm just saying that I don't think it's nearly as big of a threat to your health as just getting in your car every day to go to work.
"Ground turkey is touted as a lower fat and calorie alternative to burgers."
Because some of the time it is, although not always, and that's up to you as the consumer to check the labels on your food!
I'm not going to go through and quote every little thing in the rest of this article because there are a lot of quotes from random people that have no sort of authority on anything that they're talking about. Opinions don't really belong in serious journalism (in my opinion, ha!).
"The turkey industry disputes the report. It calls it alarmist."
I guess I belong in that group.
There's also a blurb in there about antibiotics. I've already talked about my thoughts on antibiotics, you can find that here if you're interested.
"Orozco says there's often no way for consumers to tell if the meat they buy has been contaminated since many meat and poultry products aren't tested."
Uh, this is absolutely not true. All poultry is USDA inspected in the processing plant before it ever leaves to go to the grocery store. They do both physical inspections and take swabs to check for bacterial contamination. If they find anything they take care of it before it's ever packaged. Food safety is no joke in the food industry! I really hope to get that point across. People are out there doing their best (for the most part) to protect consumers from food-borne illnesses.
"Some bacteria are killed at higher temperatures. Experts remind us to use a meat thermometer and cook to a temperature of 165 degrees."
This is my favorite part of the article. Most bacteria are killed in the temperature range (over 160 degrees) that is needed to cook poultry. So unless you're out there eating raw meat (uh, eww) then cooking your food should be enough to destroy anything that might be on/in it. As for the "What you can do" section: Buying organic won't help anything as far as reducing food-borne pathogens; neither will eating "animal welfare approved" (whatever that is), "certified humane" or "natural" meat. They are right about a couple things though; one is that no meat is risk free. The last five things on the list are all good ideas that will help reduce pathogen loads or your amount of exposure. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth, keeping them from reaching the infectious dose level. Cooking kills the bacteria. Washing hands & not returning meat to the same plate that you had the raw meat on lowers your exposure. It's always better to be safe than sorry!
Just as a side note here: All ground meat products have a higher chance of being contaminated than large, whole muscle cuts of meat, for example steaks & chicken breasts. That's because theoretically the inside of a muscle should be sterile. Once it's ground up if there was any contamination on the surface it's been all mixed up & is then inside the ground meat, this gives more surface area for the bacteria. So if you're really paranoid about food-borne illnesses you might best stay away from ground meats altogether but really if you follow simple food safety & preparation rules you will be fine.
If you're interested in knowing more about food-borne illnesses check out the CDC website here!