Single Turkey Plant Reportedly a Suspect in Dangerous Salmonella Outbreak

An ongoing <"">Salmonella outbreak that has been linked to one death and 76 illnesses across 26 states could be associated with a single turkey processing plant. At least one media report is stating that the turkey processing plant could be a facility operated by Cargill.

Federal officials said they were looking into a link with frozen and fresh ground turkey and said that their investigation has led them to one ground turkey factory; however, officials did not name the factory, said The New York Times. The link to Cargill was made because the plant was contacted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for information as part of the probe into the Salmonella outbreak.

“We are cooperating with the agency’s ongoing investigation into the source of the illnesses,” Mike Martin, a Cargill spokesman, said in an email to the New York Times.

The concern in this particular outbreak is the Salmonella strain, the New York Times pointed out. As we’ve mentioned, the strain linked to this outbreak is Salmonella Heidelberg, which appears to be resistant to a number of common antibiotics.

Already angerous and even deadly, it now seems some Salmonella strains have become drug resistant. As a matter-of-fact, food safety watchdog group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) just said it filed a regulatory petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deem four antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains as adulterants in certain meats, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP). The four strains include Salmonella Heidelberg as well as Newport, Hadar, and Typhimurium. All have been linked with foodborne illness outbreaks, CIDRAP added.

When pathogens, such as the foodborne bacteria Salmonella, become resistant to antibiotics, treatment options are minimized and become significantly more difficult. In many instances patients suffering from these salmonella strains cannot always be brought back to their presickness state.

“In the past, USDA has acted promptly to recall products when they find outbreaks from antibiotic-resistant salmonella, and it’s urgent that they identify the company and issue a recall here in order to better protect the public,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director, the New York Times reported.

A recall has not yet been issued; however, as we mentioned yesterday the USDA issued a public health alert following detection of the outbreak via PulseNet—the nation’s foodborne illness detection system—which confirmed the genetic Salmonella print in fresh and frozen ground turkey, according to MSNBC previously..”

According to MSNBC previously, cultures from four ground turkey samples purchased from retail stores from March 7 to June 27 revealed the Salmonella Heidelberg strain. MSNBC warned that fresh or frozen turkey should be cooked thoroughly to internal temperatures of 165 degrees Fahrenheit; a food thermometer is the only effective way in which to ensure proper cooking temperature, health officials noted.

Of those sickened, 58 have been confirmed by health officials who report that those sickened range in age from under one year to 88 years of age; the median age is 23. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that at least 22 people have been hospitalized, to date, in connection with this outbreak. In Ohio and Michigan each, 10 have been sickened; 9 have fallen ill in Texas and all other states report one illness each, said MSNBC. The sickness began around March 9 and continued through this week, say health officials.

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