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The Good Bird Guide

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November 21, 2002
by Beverly Kirk

Washington, D.C.-- Just in time for Thanksgiving-- a food-safety watchdog group is unveiling a checklist to help you buy a safer turkey.

It’s called the "Good Bird Guide", and lists the nine turkey processing plants that had the lowest rates of salmonella contamination in 2001.

It also tells you where to look on the label of the bird you buy to find out which plant it came from.  joins us live with the latest from Washington. Good evening. This time next week, many families will be sitting down to a nice turkey dinner, and one group, known affectionately as the "food police" says there are some things you should look for when you buy your bird. Creating the perfect thanksgiving dinner table takes a lot of preparation, some of which begins even before the turkey reaches the supermarket.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest now ranks the nation's turkey processing plants based on reports of salmonella contamination. The plant number is listed on this color-coded chart. That same number can also be found near the USDA seal on the turkey package at the store. Plants in the green section had the least salmonella contamination. Those in red, the most.

Caroline Smith Dewaal of the Center For Science in The Public Interest said, "I think the ones in the green zone are probably doing almost everything they can to keep their turkeys safe, but the practices they're using can be used by the rest of the industry."

 The turkey industry says the data used to create the chart is old, and that more recent findings show producers are doing all they can to reduce salmonella.

The National Turkey Federation’s Sherrie Rosenblatt "There's a 50 percent reduction in the amount of salmonella that the industry has found through a Texas A&M study, and that if they cook thoroughly they're going to have a great product for Thanksgiving."

 food safety advocates agree that properly cooking a turkey will eliminate salmonella, no matter how much of the bacteria may be present at the plant where it was processed. But they say buying a bird produced at a plant with the least contamination will reduce the amount of salmonella coming into your kitchen.

And to be safe, turkey should be cooked until it reaches 180-degrees, and if there's stuffing inside, it should reach 165-degrees. The Good Bird Guide lists the Perdue foods plant in Washington, Indiana as the best, with no salmonella contamination found in any of the samples taken.

 The guide lists Conagra poultry's plant in Longmont, Colorado having the most salmonella contamination found, however it does not sell uncooked turkeys.

posted at 3:50PM by dave.miller@walb.com