Study: Turkeys raised on antibiotics have more drug-resistant bacteria

April 30, 2013 at 11:58 AM
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YONKERS, N.Y., April 30 (UPI) -- Turkeys raised without antibiotics have bacteria that are less resistant to antibiotics than turkeys on which antibiotics are regularly used, a study concludes.

The research raises concerns that antibiotics used on turkeys make the drugs less potent when used on humans, said the report released Tuesday by Consumer Reports.

The nonprofit consumer protection organization said it found at least one of five bacteria it tested for on 90 percent of 257 samples of raw ground turkey from national and store brands.

Turkey products labeled as being raised without antibiotics or as "organic" were found to have bacteria resistant to fewer antibiotics than bacteria found on "conventional" products, CR said in a statement.

The findings "strongly suggest" a "direct relationship between the routine use of antibiotics in animal production and increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria on ground turkey," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports' director of the food safety and sustainability group.

"Humans don't consume antibiotics every day to prevent disease and neither should healthy animals. Prudent use of antibiotics should be required to stem the public health crisis generated from the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics," he added.

Bacteria related to fecal contamination were found on the turkey products on which antibiotics were used. Some 69 percent contained enterococcus, while 60 percent harbored E. coli. Three samples were contaminated with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

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