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Turkey troubles

(article, Culinate staff)

Earlier this month, Tom Philpott noted the awfully cozy relationship between the USDA and the meat industry, as well as Cargill's massive August recall of ground turkey contaminated with salmonella — a recall that the company had to repeat when it became clear that its safety measures weren't safe enough. Embarrassingly, repeat recalls are nothing new at Cargill:

bq. Note that this is not the first time that Cargill — which processes 14 percent of the turkey consumed in the United Sates, along with a quarter of the beef and 9 percent of the pork — has had recurring recalls of the same product due to taint from the same antibiotic-resistant pathogen. In 2009, a beef processor owned by the company had to recall 826,000 pounds of hamburger meat laced with a resistant strain called Salmonella Newport — and the same plant had to recall another 22,000 pounds for the same reason a few months later. A USA Today investigation revealed that the troubled plant was a major supplier to the national school lunch program.

As Barry Estabrook noted back in August, Cargill would rather be sued by the likes of food-safety litigator Bill Marler than test its products regularly for contaminants. 

Philpott pointed out that restricting antibiotic use on factory farms would do far more to reduce the contamination problem than either testing or cleansing measures, and on the Huffington Post, Wendy Gordon concurred, applauding a hospital-supply company for purchasing antibiotic-free meat:

bq. Health-care providers are on the front lines of the growing crisis of bacterial resistance. And they've been among those calling most loudly for a ban on the sub-therapeutic feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock. They are seeing an increasing number of infections that are more and more difficult to treat and require longer and more expensive hospital stays due to bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. The results can be fatal.