It has been reported that one person has died from salmonella poisoning that appears to be linked to eating ground turkey. Seventy-six people in 26 states have been made sick from the same strain of the disease, which is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. Those illnesses date back to March. Cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed salmonella contamination, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says three of the samples have been linked to the same production establishment. The agency did not name the retailers or the manufacturers. Thus far, no details about the person who died have been released.
It was reported last month that officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspected as early as July 18th that samples of ground turkey tied to nationwide salmonella infections came from meat giant Cargill Inc. But it took two weeks to gather enough information to urge a recall. Dr. David Goldman, assistant administrator for the Office of Public Health Science for the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says that the CPSC had “to be sure everything has lined up in a way that we’re convinced,” before a recall could be ordered.
Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey on August 3rd after evidence showed the company’s Springdale, Ark., plant products were tied to a death and 77 other salmonella infections nationwide. Cargill has suspended production of ground turkey at the Springdale plant until it can identify the source of contamination and fix it.
The outbreak bacteria, salmonella Heidelberg, are resistant to three common drugs: ampicillin, tetracycline and streptomycin. But they do respond to some other antibiotics, including Bactrim, health officials said. The outbreak began in March, with sporadic cases of salmonella Heidelberg detected by the nation’s food-borne illness monitoring system, according to Dr. Chris Braden, director of food-borne, waterborne and environmental diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the investigation by the CPSC didn’t begin in earnest until May 23rd, when it became apparent that there was an increase in that particular strain of the bacteria.
The investigation was apparently complicated because some people became ill from ground turkey that didn’t come from Cargill. Some, according to reports, didn’t eat ground turkey at all. Information from consumers’ shopper cards was key to linking ground turkey from meat giant Cargill to the outbreak of salmonella. The card data helped trace back three retail purchases to the Cargill facility. CDC officials found that four ground turkey samples from retail stores tested positive for salmonella Heidelberg, including three from a single manufacturing plant,. Two of those three were confirmed to come from Cargill on July 18th and the third was confirmed on July 26th.
Dr. Braden warned consumers that ground turkey has a long shelf life and that contaminated product may remain in home refrigerators and freezers. He urged consumers to check the products against the recall list on Cargill’s site and to return or discard any affected product. Products include “chubs” of fresh and frozen ground turkey meat, retail trays of ground turkey and ground turkey patties sold at grocery stores including Kroger, Safeway and Giant Eagle, according to company’s recall list.
The recall, believed to be the third largest of its kind on record, was announced by Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, a subsidiary of the Wichita-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation. The company said it was recalling ground turkey produced at the Arkansas plant from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2. All of the packages recalled include the code “Est. P-963” on the label, according to the USDA. The packages were labeled with many different brands, including Cargill’s Honeysuckle White and Kroger. Cargill is contacting its customers to make sure they know which ground turkey products are affected by the recall. Consumers are urged to return any opened or unopened packages of ground turkey items listed on the company’s recall site: www.cargill.com/turkey-recall. At press time, at least one lawsuit had been filed on behalf of a youngster who became sick after eating turkey from Cargill.
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