The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has called for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release data on the safety of turkeys obtained from different slaughter plants.
According to the CSPI, tests conducted by the USDA found that 13% of all turkeys are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.
Over 2200 turkey samples from 45 plants were collected in 2001.
Until this year, the turkey industry has been largely exempt from the testing program, which began in 1998 for chicken and beef. In 2000, Salmonella was found in 9.1% of chicken samples and 3.3% of ground beef, according to USDA.
The USDA tests found broad variation among turkey slaughter plants.
Among the cleanest third of the plants, the rate of Salmonella contamination was 5% or less.
However, in the worst 15% of the plants, at least 1 in every 5 birds had Salmonella. In the dirtiest plant checked by USDA, half the turkeys were contaminated with the bacteria.
"The large number of plants producing relatively clean turkeys shows that farming and slaughter practices can produce turkeys with little or no Salmonella," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food-safety director for the CSPI.
| In the dirtiest plant, half of all turkeys were contaminated with Salmonella.
"However, some plants are marketing large numbers of contaminated turkeys. It is especially troubling that USDA won't tell the public the contamination rates at the various plants," she added.
At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, USA, DeWaal announced that CSPI has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain plant-by-plant data from USDA.
CSPI recommends that frozen turkeys should be thawed in the refrigerator, microwave oven, or submerged in a sink (water changed every half-hour) for maximum safety.
Soap and water should be used top wash all counters, hands, and utensils that touch raw turkey.
The turkey should be roasted until the temperature taken at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 ° F.
In addition, any leftovers must be refrigerated within 2 hours, and should be eaten within 2-4 days.