Although ground turkey was tested, whole turkey carcasses, like those purchased for Thanksgiving, can be contaminated with fecal bacteria when turkeys are slaughtered. According to the report, "When any animal is slaughtered, the bacteria that normally live in its gut without causing harm can wind up on its carcass. To limit contamination, federal law requires processors to create a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan. For turkey processors, HACCP includes steps for washing and chilling carcasses throughout processing to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and contamination of the finished product. But HACCP doesn’t require eradication of harmful bacteria."
Chicken and other meat is no safer. Last year, the Physicians Committee sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for ignoring concerns over fecal contamination. Although the USDA implements a “zero tolerance” policy for fecal contamination, this policy only applies to visible fecal contamination. Chicken products pass inspection as long as feces are not visible to the naked eye.
The lawsuit quotes a federal inspector who said, “We often see birds going down the line with intestines still attached, which are full of fecal contamination. If there is no fecal contamination on the bird’s skin, however, we can do nothing to stop that bird from going down that line. It is more than reasonable to assume that once the bird gets into the chill tank (a large vat of cold water), that contamination will enter the water and contaminate all of the other carcasses in the chiller. That’s why it is sometimes called ‘fecal soup.’” Poultry Slaughter Procedures, a USDA training video the Physicians Committee obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reveals the “fecal soup.”
In 2011, the Physicians Committee conducted a study that tested 120 chicken products sold by 15 grocery store chains in 10 U.S. cities for the presence of fecal bacteria. Nearly half of the products tested positive for feces.
Instead of risking contaminated turkey, try the healthful and delicious plant-based recipes in our Thanksgiving e-cookbook!