July 17, 2024

What’s the Deal With Turkey and Salmonella Outbreaks?

A Salmonella Schwartengrund outbreak linked to Butterball, Food Lion, and Kroger ground turkey has just been announced. Details are sketchy, but we know that at least five people, four of whom live in Wisconsin, are sick.

What's the Deal With Turkey and Salmonella Outbreaks?

There’s another Salmonella outbreak associated with ground turkey and raw turkey products. That one, caused by Salmonella Reading, is linked to Jennie-O ground turkey and several brands of raw dog food diets, as well as contact with live turkeys. It started in 2018, has sickened at last 279 people and is not over yet. One hundred seven people have been hospitalized, and one person, who lived in California, died.

And in 2011, Salmonella in ground turkey that was produced by Cargill Meat Solutions sickened 136 and killed one person. So what’s going on?

First of all, consumer safety advocates tell consumers that any raw meat can be contaminated with pathogens. There have been serious multistate food poisoning outbreaks linked to ground turkey, chicken, and ground beef. These animals can harbor pathogens in their intestines that can be spilled onto the meat during slaughter. Then, when the meat is ground, the bacteria are mixed throughout the product.

Consumer Reports states that USDA inspectors found the outbreak strain of Salmonella in 22 slaughtering facilities and seven processing establishments while they were investigating the 2o18 Salmonella Reading outbreak. Those establishments were not named by the government.

The CDC’s statement on that outbreak states, “The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry. CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and requested that they take steps to reduce Salmonella contamination.”

So how can you protect yourself and your family? Here are steps you can take:

  • First, pay attention to recalls and outbreak announcements.
  • Second, when you buy ground turkey or any raw meat product, make sure that you buy from a reputable retailer.
  • Look for packages with expiration dates as far into the future as possible.
  • Buy raw meats last when you are shopping, and make sure you go home immediately and refrigerate or freeze these products.
  • When you cook with raw meat, watch out for cross-contamination. Never let raw juices drip onto other surfaces or onto foods that are eaten uncooked.
  • Carefully clean the area, utensils, and your hands with soap and water after working with raw meats and poultry.
  • Always cook poultry products to 165°F and measure that temp with a food thermometer. Ground beef and pork should be cooked to that temperature too.
  • Promptly refrigerate all leftovers.

If someone in your family gets sick with symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning, see your doctor. This illness is treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

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