E MIGHT WORK FOR CHICKENS, TOO
ARS News Service <NewsService@ars.usda.gov>
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Luis Pons, (301) 504-1628, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 16, 2004
Adding Vitamin E to the diets of turkeys
may further reduce the likelihood of consumers contracting a serious
foodborne illness from the
popular holiday and sandwich fowl.
That's what Agricultural Research Service
scientists and their colleagues found when studying ways to control
Listeria monocytogenes, a
major human bacterial foodborne pathogen found in poultry. ARS is
the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Microbiologist Irene Wesley of the ARS National Animal Disease Center
(NADC) in Ames, Iowa, found that supplementing turkeys' diets with
the vitamin stimulates their immune responses, helping them clear
the gut of the microorganism that causes the disease. This can in
turn lead to reduced contamination of carcasses at slaughter and during
Wesley is part of NADC's Pre-Harvest Food
Safety and Enteric Diseases Research Unit.
Listeria monocytogenes causes listeriosis,
a disease that affects mainly pregnant women, newborns, and adults
with weakened immune
systems. It accounts for 2,500 total cases annually of human meningitis,
encephalitis, sepsis, fetal death and premature births. In a 1998
study, L. monocytogenes was found in nearly 6 percent of turkey carcass
rinses and in 31 percent of the ground turkey meat examined.
These studies, conducted in collaboration with the University of Arkansas
and Iowa State University, found that vitamin E boosts turkeys'
white blood cells, which go into action when disease-causing organisms
Turkeys require vitamin E for normal development
and function of the immune system. Wesley used alpha-tocopherol--the
most active form of
vitamin E in humans, and a powerful biological antioxidant--because
it is readily available from commercial sources and can be used in
feed preparations. Earlier tests conducted at Iowa State showed that
dietary vitamin E also enhances poultry meat's quality and shelf life.
Plans are in the works for testing vitamin E against Salmonella and
Campylobacter, two other important foodborne pathogens.