Be Careful What You Eat, Especially if it is Turkey

Beware! Turkey sold in Pennsylvania has become the latest tainted meat product to be recalled. The tainted turkey meat has already proven to be potentially fatal.

ABC World News (8/3) reported on “the latest nationwide salmonella outbreak,” which caused the USDA to recall “36 million pounds — 36 million — of Cargill ground turkey.”

NBC Nightly News (8/3) reported, “And we had early warning of this last night. Now it is an official government recall in this country. Thirty-six million pounds of Cargill ground turkey, some of it contaminated with salmonella, believed responsible for at least 76 illnesses nationwide and one death in the state of California.”

The New York Times (8/4) reports, “Cargill, a major United States meat processor, said Wednesday that it was recalling” the ground turkey produced since February in Springdale, Arkansas, where it was also suspending operations. The decision “appeared to be one of the largest meat recalls ever.” The CDC warned that the Salmonella Heidelberg strain of bacteria involved “is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics.” Cargill called the recall “regrettable.” The company said some of the meat was sold under the Honeysuckle White brand in retail supermarkets. The Times points out that practice of routinely giving antibiotics to animals is linked to the bacteria’s increased resistance to the drugs.

The Los Angeles Times (8/4) reports that “so far, California, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania have been among the states hardest hit,” and victims typically experience “diarrhea and abdominal pain.” For children, the illness can be fatal.
The AP (8/4, Jalonick) reports that Cargill said the recall would involve both fresh and frozen ground turkey sold under various names but with the common code of “Est. P-963” on labels. The 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.”

In its “HealthPop” blog, CBS (8/3, Freeman) added some background on “the germ called S. Kentucky,” a similar strain of Salmonella that “sickened 489 people in France, England, Wales, and Denmark” between 2000 and 2008. Moreover, “evidence suggests that S. Kentucky has made its way to Canada and the US”

CBS (8/3, Jaslow) reports in another “HealthPop” blog entry that one of the reasons that “there is such a lack of government information on this outbreak” is that the “USDA rules make it hard to investigate and recall salmonella-tainted poultry.” CBS added, “Salmonella is common in poultry, so it’s not illegal for meat to be tainted with the pathogen.”

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal (8/3, Stych, Subscription Publication) reported that Minnesota-based Cargill announced its voluntary recall through its “Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, which is a business unit of Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.” The Business Journal also noted that “Cargill, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Agriculture all have been investigating.”

Reuters (8/4, O’Toole) reports that Cargill executive Steve Willardsen, who heads the company’s turkey processing division, said, “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.” Reuters adds that the FDA also was investigating the incident.

Again, be careful what you eat. Be very careful.