Product Liability

Ground turkey is the likely cause of salmonella outbreak, CDC says

An antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella that has caused one death and at least 76 illnesses in the United States is likely linked to eating ground turkey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Monday.

Federal officials continue to investigate the outbreak of Salmonella-Heidelberg, which has been reported in 26 states. Ohio and Michigan have the highest concentration of infections so far, with 10 cases each, followed by Texas, California, and Pennsylvania, which accounted for an additional 20 cases.

According to the CDC, 49 percent of the ill persons with available information have reported eating ground turkey in recent days – a rate about five times higher than the number of healthy people surveyed who reported consuming ground turkey in the previous 7 days.

CDC also says that cultures of ground turkey samples purchased from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27, 2011 tested positive for Salmonella Heidelberg, and three of those products have been linked to a common, undisclosed source. However, even though a possible source of contamination has been identified, CDC has not publicly disclosed the brand name of the manufacturer producing the contaminated turkey nor had it initiated any recalls. CDC says the outbreak remains under investigation.

Instead, CDC issued a public health alert on July 29 reminding consumers to properly handle poultry and meat and to cook it to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees before eating.

“The outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics,” increasing the “risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure,” the CDC said in its announcement. People most at risk for serious complications include infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

The symptoms of salmonella poisoning usually develop 12 to 72 hours after infection and typically include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts between 4 days and a week. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.