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Cargill Recalls 36 Million Lbs of Ground Turkey Possibly Linked to Deadly Salmonella Outbreak

Aug 4, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey that may be associated with an outbreak of drug resistant Salmonella that has sickened 78 people in 26 states and killed one.  All of the recalled ground turkey products were produced at Cargill's Springdale, Arkansas, plant.

In a statement, Cargill officials said the firm was suspending production of ground turkey at the Sprindale plant until it could identify the source of Salmonella contamination and fix it.

The Cargill ground turkey recall includes chubs of fresh and frozen ground turkey, as well as retail trays of ground turkey meat and ground turkey patties.  Recalled products were sold under the names Honeysuckle White, Giant Eagle, Riverside, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Fit & Active, Shady Brook Farms, and Spartan.  The products subject to recall today bear the establishment number "P-963" inside the USDA mark of inspection.  A complete list of recalled ground turkey products, along with their freeze and use by dates can be found here.

Cargill requests that consumers who may have purchased any recalled ground turkey products return them to the point-of-purchase.

The Cargill ground turkey products have been implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg, a strain that is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics.  According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, a total of 79 Salmonella Heidelberg cases have been identified.   The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has received reports from  the following states: Alabama,  Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa , Illinois , Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana , Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio , Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Among the 58 ill persons with available information, 22 (38%) have been hospitalized. According to the CDC, one death has been reported in California. 

Most people infected with Salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

The fact that Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to many antibiotics makes it more difficult to treat.  According to a report from MSNBC, one recent study conducted by the USDA found that 10 percent of ground turkey samples tested were contaminated with Salmonella.  Other test data from the federal government also indicates that as many as 80 percent of Salmonella strains are resistant to one or more antibiotics.

The USDA did note that even contaminated ground turkey is safe to eat if cooked and handled properly.  Poultry, including ground turkey, should be cooked to 165° F, as determined with a food thermometer. To prevent salmonellosis and other foodborne illnesses, the USDA advises consumers to wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry.

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