By Dawn Undurraga and Sydney Swanson, Environmental Working Group
With Thanksgiving less than a week away, news of a salmonella outbreak in turkey is a serious concern. The turkeys in question are contaminated with a hard-to-treat strain of salmonella bacteria that can trigger symptoms such as fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea within 12 to 72 hours of exposure. This strain, known as salmonella Reading, is a superbug – one that has developed a resistance to multiple antibiotics.
Until the contaminated brands of turkey have been identified – or in the longer term, the Food and Drug Administration takes action to protect the public’s health by stopping unnecessary use of antibiotics in farm animals – here’s how to reduce your risk of infection.
But if you’re going with turkey, check out and share EWG’s Tips To Help You Avoid Superbugs in Meat and How To Prevent Dangerous Salmonella Infections in Children. Our advice includes:
- Most conventional turkeys are tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If possible, find a turkey bearing one or more of these labels: USDA Certified Organic, Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership Steps 3 to 5+, or Certified Animal Welfare Approved.
- Know the source of your turkey and purchase it from a local farm using LocalHarvest.
- Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations on how to prevent salmonella infection.
- Don’t thaw your turkey on the counter. Instead, thaw it in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water or the microwave.
- Wash your hands and all kitchen supplies before and after contact with the raw turkey.
- Don’t wash raw poultry. Splashing water spreads bacteria.
- Cook your turkey to an internal temperature of 165°.
As EWG recently reported, almost three-fourths of salmonella found on ground turkey in grocery stores were antibiotic-resistant, or immune to at least one of the drugs designed to kill them, according to 2014 FDA testing. But the FDA continues to downplay this data despite the fact that more than seven in 10 people ingesting salmonella through undercooked turkey or cross-contaminated foods would face a hard-to-treat infection.
The CDC estimates that salmonella outbreaks result in 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths each year, with this single outbreak resulting in 63 hospitalizations and one death.
EWG continues to call on the FDA to protect life-saving antibiotics by stopping the use of medically important antibiotics on factory farms, where bacteria can develop and share immunity to antibiotics. Add your voice here.