"Has Your Thanksgiving Turkey Caught the Avian Flu?"

November 22, 2005
Volume 02    |   Issue 47

The bird flu is in the news again, and I expect it will remain there for some time to come. Some of the information you hear and read is accurate, while some information uses scare tactics.

Now, at holiday time, I?m hearing that many people are becoming wary of eating turkey for fear they?ll get the bird flu. Is there any danger? Should you eat ham instead of turkey?

The answer is ... "no."

There?s no danger in eating poultry or poultry products for one reason: Even if there were any viruses in your bird, they would be killed when you cooked it.>So there?s absolutely no reason to worry about catching the avian flu from your Thanksgiving turkey.

However, there is another danger in eating poultry, one that few people talk about. Because of the avian flu scare, many poultry farms are giving even larger doses of antibiotics to their turkeys and chickens. (This makes no sense, since antibiotics don?t attack viruses, only bacteria.)

These antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which would cause problems when you have a bacterial infection. For this reason, I suggest you buy chickens and turkeys that have not been given antibiotics.

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The best way to ensure that your bird is antibiotic-free is to buy turkeys that are organic, such as Eberly?s brand. The USDA?s new National Organic Program says all organic turkeys must be antibiotic-free.

If your store doesn?t carry organic turkeys, you may choose non-organic birds where the label specifically states that the birds are free of antibiotics.Two good brands are Murray?s and Bell & Evans, and there are some others, too.

But please beware of labels that simply say "free range." The USDA?s definition of "free-range" is very loose. For a bird to qualify as free-range, it simply has to have access to the outdoors. This is practically worthless. The real difference in the quality of meat is determined by how crowded the birds are, not whether they ever get to go outside.

Bottom line: Check the label. If a company doesn?t use antibiotics, it will tell you. If in doubt, ask your grocer.

Next week, I?ll be giving you some recommendations for avoiding the avian flu. In the meantime, I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,

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