In the third largest meat recall in history, meat industry giant Cargill Inc. has recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey, following a California death and at least 78 salmonella illnesses nationwide.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the Class I recall -- the highest health risk -- late Wednesday, and says it is for all fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at Cargill’s Springdale, Ark. plant.
Specific products on the recall list include"chubs" of fresh and frozen ground turkey meat, retail trays of ground turkey and ground turkey patties sold at grocery stores including Kroger, Safeway and Giant Eagle.
This high profile recall comes on the heels of the death of a Sacramento, Calif., man which was linked to a rash of salmonella food poisoning cases in 26 states since March.
Cargill officials said the firm was suspending production of ground turkey at the Springdale plant until it could determine the source of the bacteria and remedy the problem. “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,” said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s turkey processing business. “Additionally, we have suspended ground turkey production at our Arkansas facility until the source can be pinpointed and actions to address it are taken. 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 and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry. We go to great lengths to ensure the food we produce is safe and we fully understand that people expect to be able to consume safe food, each serving, every time. We are closely examining every aspect of our production process and have identified enhancements to our procedures in our efforts to ensure safe food. Eliminating food borne illness is always our goal.”
Tracing a food-borne illness is a time-consuming process. 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.
Commonly found in plants, animals, water, soil and humans, Salmonella is a common bacteria with approximately 2,400 different strains. “We all need to remember bacteria is everywhere, and we must properly handle and prepare fresh foods wherever they are served,” explained Willardsen.
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