Consumer Reports' ground turkey study blasted by meat industry

(CBS News) Many people buy ground turkey, thinking it's healthier than ground beef. But a Consumer Reports article in the magazine's June issue reports that ground turkey can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

In response to the story, the National Turkey Federation released a statement saying the organization "strongly disputes the misleading findings of a Consumer Reports article about ground turkey, which makes a number of alarming claims based on an extremely small sampling of ground turkey products."

Consumer Reports: Dangerous bacteria on 90 percent of ground turkey tested
Read the Consumer Reports story

The National Turkey Federation and the American Meat Institute jointly challenged the claims and said further, "The results are encouraging because they do not show high levels of the bacteria, typically linked to food issues."

Consumer Reports' study claims the ground turkey studied contained a variety of bacteria, including enterococcus, E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, and salmonella. The bacteria detected in the study, as Urvashi Rangan, director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability for Consumer Reports, explained Wednesday on "CBS This Morning," can cause urinary tract infections, as well as blood and skin infections -- some of which are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

In response to the organizations' statements, Rangan said, "There's about 403 million pounds of ground turkey produced every year. These are from 2008 from the Turkey Federation. So we found about 5 percent salmonella -- that was one of the lower rates that we found -- there's 69 percent enterococcus. But even 5 percent of 403 million pounds is 20 million pounds. That's a significant amount of turkey that would be contaminated with salmonella. The Cargill (ground turkey) recall in 2011 was about 39 million pounds. So that's not good enough. We need to get better. We need to get cleaner."

Rangan added the study was conducted at an outside lab, but Consumer Reports managed the project.

For more on the study and responses to it, watch the video in the player above.