DeWaal was critical of turkey processors for not publicly sharing data on the progress of their hazard analysis program to improve food safety, when other meat producers have already done so. The hangup, says DeWaal, is USDA's failure to develop a "performance standard" for testing turkeys.
Sherrie Rosenblatt of the National Turkey Federation tells WebMD that the industry has been working with the government to develop a new industry-wide standard that will make product safety more than just a "marketing opportunity."
Meanwhile, there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves from fowl gone foul. "The bottom line is consumers should treat every turkey like it's potentially contaminated ... because we know those hazards are in the flocks. We know that it's in the slaughter plants, and they could be coming home on your Thanksgiving turkey," says DeWaal.
Arthur Frank, MD, who heads the diet and weight loss program at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, tells WebMD that preventing turkey-related infections is really a 'kitchen management' issue. He says to keep in mind that utensils that touch the bird should be washed before they're used for other food to protect against cross-contamination.
Other tips from CSPI include: carve out a big enough place in your refrigerator so the turkey won't contaminate nearby food. If you thaw your turkey in a microwave, cook it as soon as it's ready. Finally, use a meat thermometer, which takes the guesswork out of food safety.