36M pounds of ground turkey recalled

Posted: August 04, 2011

WASHINGTON - Meat giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has killed one person in California and sickened at least 76 nationwide.

Cargill said Wednesday that it was 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 had 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 its decision followed its own investigation and ongoing federal probes.

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.

Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been reported in 26 states. Pennsylvania had five cases: a Philadelphia child who became sick in mid-June and has recovered, and four people in Pittsburgh. No cases were reported in New Jersey or Delaware.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the strain was resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, which can make treatment more difficult. The agency said 38 percent of those sickened were hospitalized.

Because ground turkey is often stored for months in home freezers, food-safety experts said that consumers should be sure to cook ground turkey to 165 degrees - as they always should - to ensure that it is safe to eat regardless of contamination.

It's also important that people wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling the meat. All 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. It can be life-threatening to people with weakened immune systems.

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