Adding vitamin E to the diets of turkeys may further reduce the likelihood of consumers contracting a serious food borne illness from eating turkey meat, according to the US Agricultural Research Service.

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service, which is the chief scientific research agency of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), were studying ways to control Listeria monocytogenes, a major human bacterial food borne pathogen found in poultry.

Microbiologist Irene Wesley of the ARS National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa, found that supplementing turkeys’ diets with vitamin E 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 processing, the ARS said.

The ARS plans to test the effectiveness of vitamin E against Salmonella and Campylobacter, two other food borne pathogens.