Keeping an eye on food safety

Washington, D.C. — The government wants to make that turkey drumstick a little safer.

The U.S. Agriculture Department plans to start testing for salmonella bacteria in plants that process turkeys.

The Agriculture Department for years has been doing similar carcass testing in plants that slaughter hogs, cattle and chickens.

The testing in turkey plants is due to start in May or June. It's part of a broader plan to reduce the number of salmonella infections, which have been rising even as illnesses from other types of food-borne germs, such as E. coli, campylobacter and listeria, have been declining.

If the plan doesn't work, the department is threatening to start posting the names of meat and poultry processors that have contamination.

The turkey testing "is an essential part of the initiative to reduce overall the rates of salmonella, and hopefully this will translate into reductions in the rate of human illness," said Steven Cohen, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Turkeys are a big business in Iowa, although the industry is overshadowed by the state's beef, pork and egg industries. Iowa raises about 9million turkeys annually and ranks No.5 in processing. The state has two major turkey processors - West Liberty Foods at West Liberty and a Sara Lee Foods facility at Storm Lake.

Source: The Des Moines Register
calendar icon 1 April 2006
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