Minneapolis-based food giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of turkey products while inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health agencies hunt down the source of a potent salmonella outbreak that has sickened dozens of people for months and left one person dead in California. Salmonella Heidelberg, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria, began sickening people in the United States in March, with reported cases spread across 26 states from coast to coast. The recall is one of the largest and most extensive meat recalls ever.
Cargill announced Wednesday that it is recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products that made at a company plant in Springdale, Arkansas, from February 20 through August 2. According to Cargill, the contaminated products are packaged and sold under multiple brand names, including Honeysuckle White, Riverside Ground Turkey, Natural Lean Ground Turkey, Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey, Spartan Ground Turkey, and Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers.
Additionally, the Cargill turkey is also packaged and sold under several grocery store brands: Giant Eagle, HEB, Kroger, Randall’s, Safeway, and Tom Thumb grocery store labels. However, whatever label the turkey is sold under, it all contains the code “Est. P-963” somewhere on the packaging.
Meanwhile, Dr. Christopher Braden, director of food borne, waterborne, and environmental diseases for the CDC, said that health authorities were close to identifying the source of the outbreak. According to the Associated Press, Dr. Braden confirmed that some leftover turkey in a package at a victim’s house tested positive for the same Salmonella Heidelberg strain linked to the outbreak.
In its recall announcement, Cargill said that all ground turkey production has stopped at the Springdale plant until the source of the contamination is found.
According to the CDC, food borne pathogens sicken 50 million Americans every year, with salmonella being the leading culprit. About 3,000 of those sickened each year die as a result of their illness. Victims usually include infants and small children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. Seventy-seven illnesses have been linked to the current outbreak, including the patient who died as result of eating the contaminated turkey.