Aug. 4, 2011 -- Cargill has recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey sold since Feb. 20, the third largest meat recall in history.
Ground turkey processed by Cargill's Springdale, Ark., processing plant is the likely cause of a drug-resistant salmonella outbreak that has killed one person and sickened at least 78 others in 26 states since March 9. The most recent illness was reported on July 24.
"Thirty-eight percent of patients have been hospitalized, higher than the hospitalization rate typically seen with salmonella," Chris Braden, MD, director of the CDC's division of food-borne illness, said today at a news teleconference. "One possible reason is the strain is resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline, and streptomycin. This drug resistance may increase the risk of hospitalization and the risk of treatment failure, which is when a patient does not respond to treatment."
Using shopper cards that allow grocery stores to track customer purchases, investigators traced three salmonella cases back to products from the Cargill plant. "In-plant findings" further link the facility to the outbreak, according to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Packages of the recalled ground turkey carry the establishment mark "P-963" inside the USDA mark of inspection.
Some of the recalled turkey is unbranded. Brand names so far included in the recall are Fit & Active, Giant Eagle, HEB, Honeysuckle White, Kroger, Safeway, Shady Brook Farms, and Spartan. See below for a full list of the recalled products.
Some of the products were sold to restaurants and other food-service establishments. Others were sold at retail outlets, including:
- Aldi stores nationwide
- Walmart stores nationwide
- Kroger stores nationwide
- Giant Eagle stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio
- HEB stores in Texas
- Ingles stores in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia
- Meijer stores in Missouri, Illiniois, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio
- Stater Brothers stores in California
- Winco stores in Washington, Idaho, Nebraska, California, and Oregon
The recall does not include other turkey products processed at the Arkansas plant or ground turkey processed at Cargill's other three facilities.
"We have an ongoing evaluation in the Arkansas plant right now. I believe we will get to examining their entire process while engaged there," David Goldman, MD, assistant administrator of the FSIS, said today at a news teleconference.
Some of the people sickened in the outbreak reported eating ground turkey processed by different manufacturers. However, the FSIS/CDC investigation has not linked the salmonella outbreak to other ground turkey processors.
Tracing a food-borne illness is a time-consuming process. Sporadic cases of salmonella pop up all the time. Only on May 23 did the CDC become aware that an outbreak had been going on since March. Even then, the FSIS did not have enough evidence to confront Cargill until July 29.
Suspiciously, the FSIS detected Salmonella Heidelberg -- the same strain causing the outbreak -- during routine inspections of the Arkansas plant conducted last year. But salmonella is a very common germ. The ugly truth is that poultry often is contaminated.
"Salmonella can be found in raw poultry products," the CDC's Braden said. "Can we do better in terms of the amount of salmonella that might be out there? We might, and policies are under consideration. But since salmonella is naturally occurring in turkeys and other poultry, it behooves consumers to always handle and prepare poultry products safely."
Symptoms of Salmonella Food Poisoning
Most salmonella infections go away within five to seven days. Often, the only treatment needed is oral fluids. However, people with severe dehydration may need intravenous fluids.
Doctors usually reserve antibiotic treatment for patients whose salmonella infections have escaped the gut and spread elsewhere in the body.
Although the current outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline, and streptomycin, it remains sensitive to other common antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone, and Bactrim.
How to Prevent Salmonella Food Poisoning
Here are the CDC's tips on how to prevent salmonella infection:
- Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly to 165 degrees. Don't guess; use a food thermometer.
- Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
- If you are served undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
- Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
- Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and people with impaired or suppressed immune systems.
- Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
- Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised people.
- Don't work with raw poultry or meat and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
- Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonella infection and many other health problems.
List of Recalled Ground Turkey Products
Here's the list of ground turkey products recalled since Aug. 4:
Ground Turkey Chubs - Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
- 10 lb. chubs of Honeysuckle White Fresh Natural Lean Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings
- 10 lb. chubs of Unbranded Ground Turkey w/ Natural Flavoring 2 Pack
- 80 oz. (5 lbs.) chubs of Riverside Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring
- 10 lb. chubs of Natural Lean Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Fresh Lean HEB Ground Turkey 93/7
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Fresh HEB Ground Turkey 85/15
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Fresh Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring
- 4-1 Pound Packages of Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring Value Pack
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Fresh Ground Turkey
- 48 oz. (3 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Fresh Ground Turkey
85% Ground Turkey - Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
- 19.2 oz. (1.2 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
- 19.2 oz. (1.2 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey Colored with Paprika
- 19.2 oz. (1 lb. 3.2 oz.) trays of Kroger Ground Turkey Fresh 85/15
- 48.0 oz. (3 lb.) trays of Kroger Ground Turkey Fresh 85/15
- 20 oz. (1.25 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
- 48.0 oz. (3 lbs.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey Family Pack
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
- 19.2 oz. (1.2 lbs.) trays of Honeysuckle White Seasoned Italian Style Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings
- 20 oz. (1 lb. 4 oz.) trays of Safeway Fresh Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings * 15% Fat
(NOTE: Sold in Texas only at Randall's and Tom Thumb, Use or Freeze by 03/12/11 through 05/05/11)
93% Ground Turkey - Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
- 19.2 oz. (1.20 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey
- 48 oz. (3.0 lbs.) trays of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey Family Pack
- 19.2 oz. (1.2 lb.) trays of Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey 93/07
- 19.2 oz. (1.2 lbs.) trays of Giant Eagle Ground Turkey Fresh & Premium Lean
- 19.2 oz. (1 lb 3.2 oz.) trays of Kroger Ground Turkey Fresh Lean 93/7
- 20 oz. (1.25 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey
- 16.0 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey Patties with "Use by" or "Freeze by" dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Kroger Ground Seasoned Turkey Patties Fresh 85/15, with "Use by" or "Freeze by" dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
- 16.0 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers with Natural Flavoring with the following "Use by" or "Freeze by" dates: 07/09/11, 07/10/11, 07/11/11, 07/15/11, 07/16/11, 07/21/11, 07/22/11, 07/24/11, 08/01/11, or 08/04/11
Frozen Ground Turkey - Production Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/2/11
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring
- 16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Spartan Ground Turkey
- 48 oz. (3 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
- 40 lb. Bulk Packed Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring for Food Service Use Only
Images of the recalled products can be seen on the Cargill recall web site at stage1.order.cargill.com.
"While facts continue to be gathered, and currently there is no conclusive answer regarding the source of Salmonella Heidelberg 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," Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s turkey processing business, says in a news release. "It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry."