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You Won't Believe What's In Your CAFO Turkey Burger

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center Page and our CAFO's vs. Free Range Page.

Back in August 2011, the agribusiness giant Cargill recalled a stunning 36 million pounds of ground turkey tainted with antibiotic-resistant salmonella that had come from a single processing facility in Arkansas, a failure that eventually sickened 136 people and killed another. The company shut down the plant, tweaked its process (mainly by adding to and "intensifying" its system of spraying meat with antimicrobial fluid), and quickly reopened it. Within a month, the company had to recall another 108,000 pounds of ground turkey from the same plant, because it was infected with the same strain of superbug salmonella.

Have things gotten any cleaner in the world of Big Turkey since those events? Cargill says it has cleaned up its act, but recent research suggests that ground turkey still has an antibiotic-resistant-pathogen problem. The latest evidence comes from Consumer Reports, which has just published the results of testing it did on 257 samples of ground turkey picked up from retailers around the country, produced by a variety of processors, including Cargill. CR contacted Cargill with the results, and got the following response:

"As we've publicly stated over the past year and a half, no stone was left unturned in our efforts to determine the originating source of salmonella Heidelberg associated with the ground-turkey recalls, yet to this day we do not know the origin of the bacteria linked to outbreak of illnesses," said Mike Robach, vice president of corporate food safety and regulatory affairs for Cargill in Minneapolis. He provided a long list of steps that Cargill has taken since the outbreak to make its ground turkey safer.

Even so, the results of Consumer Reports' tests won't make you eager to order that next turkey burger: "More than half of the packages of raw ground meat and patties tested positive for fecal bacteria." 


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