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Salmonella outbreak leads to ground turkey recall

POSTED August 5, 2011 7:55 p.m.

A salmonella outbreak linked to an Arkansas meat processing firm has prompted a massive voluntary recall effort of ground turkey products.

States across the nation have reported dozens of cases of salmonella and at least one death in California has been tied to the tainted meat.

The recall, which started Wednesday, is for 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey products from Cargill, Inc.

The products are processed by Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, in Arkansas and are sold under the following brand names: Honeysuckle, Riverside, Kroger, Safeway, Giant Eagle, HEB, Aldi’s Fit & Active Fresh, Spartan and Shady Brook Farms, according to the California Department of Public Health.
In California, these brands may be found at WinCo, Kroger, Food4Less, Foods Co., Ralphs, Stater Bros. Markets and other stores yet to be identified, the CDPH said.
The affected products have "use by" dates from Feb. 20 through Aug. 23. Ground turkey products are sold in chubs, tray packs or institutional packages. The products are labeled as 85 percent, 90 percent or 93 percent fat and may be found in ground or patty/burger form. Products produced from the Cargill Springdale plant are marked  “P-963” inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture mark of inspection or printed with the "use by" date on the package container. 

The Centers for Disease Control reported 78 people have been infected with the virus in 26 states. One person — located in Sacramento County — has died from the virus. There have been no cases reported in Stanislaus County as of Friday.

According to the CDC’s data, the first reported infection occurred in March. The number of cases began to increase in mid-May and continued through late June. Illnesses that may have occurred after July 8 have yet to be reported because of the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, the CDC said.

A collaborative investigation among federal, state and local health departments led to the identification of ground turkey as the likely source of the bacteria. Cultures of four ground turkey samples from four different retailers purchased between March and June yielded the same strain of salmonella that had sickened the individuals. A sample of leftover unlabeled frozen ground turkey was collected by a public health agency from the home of a patient in Ohio and was found to have the same strain.

This particular strain, identified as salmonella Heidelberg, is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, 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.

To guard against salmonella, the CDC advises to:

·       Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry including frozen, fresh ground turkey. Then, disinfect the food contact surfaces using a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.

·       Cook poultry thoroughly. Ground turkey and ground turkey dishes should always be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers also should be reheated to 165 degrees. The color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees throughout the product. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink. Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems.

·       If served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.

·       Avoid cross-contaminating other foods. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Hands should be washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.

·       Refrigerate raw and cooked meat and poultry within two hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90 degrees). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees or below.

Consumers with questions about the recalled ground turkey products can contact Cargill’s consumer relations at (888) 812-1646.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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