Testing shows safer turkeys this year
November 18, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A consumer group that often does studies on food, randomly tested 50 turkeys for bacteria that can cause people to get sick, and found turkeys are much safer this year than last year.
The group, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), bought 50 turkeys from five cities around the country -- half fresh, half frozen.
All the turkeys were tested for campylobacter and salmonella, two common bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses with symptoms ranging from headache and fever to nausea and diarrhea.
None of the turkeys tested positive for salmonella; 28 percent of fresh turkeys and 4 percent of frozen turkeys had campylobacter. Last year, 90 percent of the turkeys CPSI tested had campylobacter and 18 percent had salmonella.
"Freezing kills some of the bacteria." said CPSI spokeswoman Colleen Dermody, "So if people are serving (to) elderly or people with compromised immune systems for Thanksgiving, they should buy a frozen turkey, and as always cook the turkey to 180 degrees (Fahrenheit) to kill any bacteria that may still be in the bird."
CSPI said the number of turkeys with bacteria has decreased in part because the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented new and more thorough testing procedures in slaughterhouses and processing plants in the past year.
According to USDA, campylobacter is estimated to be the most common cause of bacterial diarrhea disease in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say this illness is estimated to affect more than 4 million people each year. Salmonella bacteria are most commonly found in raw or undercooked foods. It is the most commonly reported cause of foodborne illness.
Cooking foods to the proper temperature will kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
CSPI bought the turkeys in Washington, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.
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