Meat processing giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a salmonella outbreak that caused at least 76 illnesses and one death.
Cargill said Wednesday that it is recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company’s Springdale, Ark., plant from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2 due to possible contamination from the strain of salmonella linked to the illnesses.
Company officials said that all ground turkey production has been suspended at the plant until the company is able to determine the source of the outbreak.
"Given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace," said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s turkey processing business.
The Minnesota-based company said it was initiating the recall after its own internal investigation, an Agriculture Department investigation and information about the illnesses released by the CDC this week.
All of the packages recalled include the code Est. P-963 on the label, according to Cargill. The packages were labeled with many different brands, including Cargill’s Honeysuckle White.
The CDC said this week that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed contamination with the same strain of salmonella, though those samples had not been specifically linked to the illnesses. The CDC said preliminary information showed that three of those samples were linked to the same production establishment, but it did not name that plant.
A chart on the CDC’s website shows cases have occurred every month since early March, with spikes in May and early June. The latest reported cases were in mid-July, although the CDC said some recent cases may not have been reported yet.
California state health officials said Tuesday the one death was in Sacramento County. The same strain of the disease has sickened 76 people in 26 states, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Because turkey is a processed meat, its exposure to bacteria and contamination from air or processing machinery is increased.
Always prepare meat at the appropriate temperature. Cook turkey at 165 degrees to keep consumers safe, which is the only way to kill the bacteria.
Clean cutting boards and other cooking utensils thoroughly, and prepare vegetables on a separate cutting board from meats.
Salmonella is the most common bacterial form of food poisoning.
Symptoms of salmonella are typically severe and include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It can be life-threatening, especially to those with weakened immune systems.
Anyone suspecting they are infected with salmonella should call their doctor immediately.
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