SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Retailers around the country last week notified their customers of a massive recall of fresh and frozen ground-turkey products after dozens of people were sickened by an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella.
The recall — at 36 million pounds, one of the largest meat recalls in history, according to reports — was initiated by Cargill Meat Solutions, and appeared to originate in a processing plant here. Illnesses thought to be related to the outbreak began appearing in March, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of late last week, the antibiotic-resistant Salmonella had infected 79 people and caused one death, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Services.
Cargill said it issued the recall due to an internal investigation, as well as investigations by FSIS and CDC.
FSIS noted that recalled products have the establishment number “P-963” inside the USDA mark of inspection.
Kroger Co., Cincinnati, issued a statement explaining that ground turkey products under the Honeysuckle White and Kroger store-brand labels were sold in Kroger-owned stores in states throughout the country, with the exception of some areas in the Pacific Northwest. The company said it removed the product from its shelves and placed signs in its stores, and said it would notify customers who purchased the products through automated telephone calls and/or receipt messages.
It also reminded customers of proper handling procedures.
“Consumers are reminded that proper handling, storage and cooking of ground turkey offers the best protection against foodborne illness,” the company said. “According to the USDA, when ground turkey is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of no less than 165 degrees, any harmful bacteria are destroyed and the ground turkey is safe to consume.”
As of late last week, Michigan and Ohio had the highest number of cases of Salmonella poisoning, with 10 each, according to reports by the CDC. Texas had nine, California had six, and the rest were scattered across 22 other states.
In addition to Kroger, other stores that carried ground turkey that was part of the recall included H.E. Butt Grocery, Safeway and Giant Eagle, according to a list issued by Cargill. Other brand names included Riverside Ground Turkey, Natural Lean Ground Turkey, Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey, Spartan Ground Turkey and Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers.
“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, in a release.
“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.”
Additional reporting by Jenna Telesca