| The most common
microorganisms contributing to foodborne illnesses associated with turkey
are Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli
O157:H7(E. coli), Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Shigella and Staphyloccocus
Campylobacter jejuni has only recently been associated
with human illness and is frequently mistaken for a stomach virus infection.
It is a slow-growing bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract of
animals. It causes illness two to five days after eating the contaminated
The organism can be destroyed by heat and thorough cooking and prevented
by good kitchen hygiene practices:
Clostridium perfringens can grow without oxygen and can create
spores that are resistant to cooking temperatures. These bacteria grow
in meat or poultry that has been held for a long time before cooking or
in precooked meat that is eaten cold or improperly reheated. Institutional
feeding (such as school cafeterias, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons,
etc.) where large quantities of food are prepared several hours before
serving is the most common circumstance in which Clostridium perfringens occurs.
The young and elderly are the most frequent victims. Factors involved in
the curing process help make cured meats an unlikely vehicle for this microorganism.
To prevent this organism from growing, cook turkey immediately after thawing
or chill cooked turkey rapidly, cover and refrigerate promptly.
- Wash hands with soap before handling raw poultry, after handling
raw poultry and before touching anything else.
- Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen with the following basic
kitchen hygiene practices:
a. Use separate cutting boards for foods of animal origin.
b. Carefully clean all cutting boards, countertops and utensils with soap
and hot water after preparing raw poultry.
Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli) is found in the intestinal
tract of warm-blooded animals. Usually associated with ground beef, the
organism can be found in ground turkey. E. coli 0157:H7 is sensitive
to heat and can be destroyed by thorough cooking. Cook all ground poultry
thoroughly. Because ground poultry can turn brown before disease-causing
bacteria are killed, use a digital instant-read food thermometer to ensure
thorough cooking. Ground poultry should be cooked until a thermometer
inserted into several parts of the patty, including the thickest part,
It also is important to follow proper sanitation methods and avoid
cross-contamination from equipment and utensils. Avoid spreading harmful
bacteria in the kitchen. Keep raw poultry separate from ready-to-eat
foods. After any contact with raw poultry, wash hands, counters and utensils
with hot soapy water. Never place cooked burgers or ground poultry on
the unwashed plate that held raw patties. Wash food thermometers in between
tests of patties that require further cooking.
Listeria monocytogenes is found in water, soil and sewage.
Many healthy humans are carriers as are healthy wild and domestic animals.
The disease that results is called listeriosis, which is often manifested
in a mononucleosis-like infection or meningitis. Because of the seriousness
of these symptoms and other long-term effects of the disease, there is
significant concern in the scientific community about Listeria monocytogenes.
In general, Listeria monocytogenes poses little or no threat
for healthy children and adults. However, pregnant women, newborns, individuals
with compromised immune systems and the elderly are more susceptible
to listeriosis, the disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes.
It is particularly important that foodservice employees follow proper
food handling and food safety techniques for all foods, especially those
serving the population with a greater potential risk to become contaminated
with Listeria monocytogenes.
Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons
with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed
- Thoroughly cook raw poultry.
- Keep uncooked poultry separate from vegetables, cooked foods and
- Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
Salmonella bacteria are widespread in nature and live and
grow in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. Fully cooked foods,
including poultry, do not normally contain Salmonella. The disease caused
by salmonella (salmonellosis) may occur if foods contaminated by the bacteria
are not properly cooked or are mishandled after cooking. Salmonella are
found in both cooked and uncooked foods, especially protein foods such
as meat, milk, poultry and eggs.
- Leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs and sausages,
should be cooked until steaming hot.
- Although the risk of listeriosis associated with foods from deli
counters is relatively low, pregnant women and immunosupressed persons
may choose to thoroughly reheat cold cuts before eating.
Salmonella is heat sensitive and can be destroyed by cooking food to
temperatures above 165ºF. Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided.
Uncooked poultry should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods and
ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other
utensils should be washed thoroughly after handling uncooked foods. Hands
should be washed before handling any food and between handling different
Shigella causes a bacterial dysentery called shigellosis.
Foods implicated in outbreaks include salads (e.g., potato, tuna, poultry)
and other types of cut, diced or chopped and mixed foods. The bacteria
are spread by food handlers, who may be symptomless carriers or may be
recovering from the disease. Food is contaminated by hand manipulation
or mixing and by subsequently cooking the product incompletely or holding
the food at temperatures that allow the organisms to grow.
To prevent occurrence of shigellosis, maintain high standards of personal
hygiene among workers. Do not allow ill people to work with food. The
spread of Shigella from an infected person to other persons can
be stopped by frequent and careful hand washing with soap.
Staphyloccocus aureus can grow in a variety of foods
and can produce a heat-resistant toxin or poison that can cause illness.
Because the toxin is difficult to destroy, you must prevent it from forming.
You can do this by keeping foods out of the "danger" temperature zone
(i.e., 40º to 140ºF) and by minimizing food contamination. Handling by
foodservice personnel is a major issue related to staph.
To control the spread, keep hot foods above 140ºF and keep cold foods
below 40ºF. Prevent people with nasal discharges or skin infections from
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides a Web site with current
disease information: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/diseasebac.htm.