WASHINGTON (AP) - Meat giant Cargill is recalling 36 million
pounds of turkey after a government hunt for the source of a
salmonella outbreak that has killed one person in California and
sickened dozens more.
The Agriculture Department and the Minnesota-based company
announced Wednesday evening that Cargill 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 76 illnesses
and the one death.
According to food safety attorney Bill Marler, who publishes a
database of outbreak statistics, the ground turkey recall is one of
the largest meat recalls ever.
All of the packages recalled include the code "Est. P-963,"
according to Cargill, though packages were labeled under many
different brands. Many of the recalled meats are under the label
Honeysuckle White. Other brands include Riverside Ground Turkey,
Natural Lean Ground Turkey, Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey,
Spartan Ground Turkey and Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers.
The recall also includes ground turkey products packaged under the
HEB, Safeway, Kroger, Randall's, Tom Thumb and Giant Eagle grocery
The recall also includes some ground turkey that isn't labeled
at all, according to Cargill.
Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been
reported in 26 states coast to coast. Just before the recall
announcement Wednesday, CDC epidemiologist Christopher Braden said
he thought health authorities were closing in on the suspect. He
said some leftover turkey in a package at a victim's house was
confirmed to contain the strain of salmonella linked to the
In announcing the recall, Cargill officials said all ground
turkey production has been suspended at the Springdale plant until
the company is able to determine the source of the contamination.
"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
The Minnesota-based company said it was initiating the recall
after its own internal investigation, an Agriculture Department
investigation and the information about the illnesses released by
the CDC this week.
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. The CDC said the
strain is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, which
can make treatment more difficult.
The states reporting the highest number sickened are Michigan
and Ohio, with 10 each. Texas has reported nine illnesses;
Illinois, seven; California, six; and Pennsylvania, five.
Twenty states have one to three reported illnesses linked to the
outbreak, according to the CDC. They are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia,
Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York,
Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans each year get sick
from food poisoning, including about 3,000 who die. Salmonella
causes most of these cases, and federal health officials say
they've made virtually no progress against it.
Government officials say that even contaminated ground turkey is
safe to eat if it is cooked to 165 degrees. But it's also important
that raw meat be handled properly before it is cooked and that
people wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before
and after handling the meat. Turkey and other meats should also be
properly refrigerated or frozen and leftovers heated.
The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal
cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of eating a contaminated
product. It can be life-threatening to some with weakened immune
Cargill executive Willardsen said, "Public health and the
safety of consumers cannot be compromised."
"It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating
one of our ground turkey products," he said, "and, for anyone who
did, we are truly sorry."
Click on the link attached to this story for more information on the recall.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)