Salmonella in Turkeys Linked to One Death and 164 Illnesses Across 35 States

Getty: GMVoz

UPDATE: After an initial outbreak report on July 19, federal officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that one person has died in California due to a salmonella outbreak linked to turkey. While no official recalls have been issued as of yet, 164 people in 35 different states have reported illnesses related to eating undercooked turkey—including ground turkey and other products—and nearly 50 percent of these individuals have been admitted to hospitals due to serious sideffects.

What’s causing all the sickness? A certain strain of salmonella, known as Salmonella Reading, has been found in “live turkeys from several states, and from raw turkey products collected from ill people’s homes,” the CDC bulletin reads. Federal officials are still investigating to see if they can determine a common supplier causing the outbreak.

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When the news first broke back in July, only 90 people in 26 states had been affected—but the first death, and an additional 82 percent increase in cases overall, is alarming for home cooks who are preparing for Thanksgiving celebrations in just two weeks.

The latest recall news:

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Currently, both the United States Department of Agriculture and the CDC are working together to identify a solution—they’ve asked major turkey producers for advice to help American consumers avoid salmonella contamination this holiday season, the update says.

What does this mean for your Thanksgiving feast?

As we first reported, these illnesses all fall within the last year—and range from ground turkey to turkey breasts or drumsticks. Right now the CDC and other federal safety agencies are saying that it is safe to eat Thanksgiving turkey, pending further investigation.

Image zoom Michael Pohuski/Getty Images

But as Americans gear up to eat another 46 million plus turkeys this Thanksgiving, it’s important to follow all the safety procedures when preparing your Thanksgiving meal. The CDC advises that all turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before being served, and taking the time to use a meat thermometer to confirm temperatures before serving your meal is crucial.

You should always wash your hands properly when handling raw meat in your kitchen, and take time to sanitize any prep space. Don’t, however, wash raw turkey or poultry in your sink before prepping, as contact on surfaces can help spread any bacteria.

A few of these cases are associated with pet food as well—avoid feeding your pets raw meat, but especially turkey, as you can contaminate your kitchen with salmonella bacteria after handling the raw meat in the first place.

Salmonella poisoning can lead to serious symptoms within 12 to 72 hours after first eating the contaminated food, which include chronic diarrhea, high fevers, vomiting, and widespread abdominal pain. Salmonella can often be confused with regular food poisoning.

We’ll continue to update this story as more information becomes available. For more details on this widespread issue, continue reading our original report below:

Ninety people in 26 different states have suffered infections from disease-resistant salmonella after handling or consuming raw turkey products since November, 2017—upwards of 40 individuals were hospitalized since then due to serious conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday. The federal agency partly responsible for consumers’ safety isn’t launching a recall or asking Americans to lay off turkey, but their investigation into this outbreak yielded a need to caution the public about preparing and cooking raw turkey. No deaths have been linked to this outbreak as of yet.

You might ask why we’re just hearing of this salmonella outbreak now: Laura Gieraltowski, one of the leaders of the food-borne outbreak response team at the CDC, told Consumer Reports that the agency chose to not alert the public because they were unable to find a common source that sparked the sicknesses. The CDC still has not found a source of the contamination or pinpointed one manufacturer, production space, or farm to explain why so many have fallen ill, Gieraltowski says.

Since the first cases of salmonella poisoning were reported nine months ago, there have been many possibilities about the source of the contamination. Some victims had handled or eaten ground turkey. Others consumed turkey breasts or drumsticks. And of course many had purchased whole turkeys—more than 46 million turkeys were consumed during Thanksgiving last year.

“We have ill people that are reporting lots of different types of turkey products with lots of different brands, and purchasing them from many different locations,” Gieraltowski told Consumer Reports. The CDC advises people to also take precautions when it comes to feeding your pet: Two illnesses in the outbreak occurred in homes where people fed their pets raw turkey. (Though there are many advocates of feeding pets raw food, we recommend against it.)

More on foodborne illnesses currently making headlines:

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  • McDonald’s Faces a Lawsuit Over Its Contaminated Salads
  • The FDA and CDC Are Asking Americans to Stay Away from Imported Crab

While the CDC has been unable to discover what is fueling the slow-but-steady spread of salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service claims that it has found the strain of salmonella linked to the 90 cases in various turkey processing facilities. It also has spotted the particularly viral strain of salmonella in 19 different slaughtering facilities and six different processing plants. According to an official announcement, both the CDC and the USDA are working with representatives within the turkey industry to try and prevent further contamination in the future.

Many of those who became ill were traced to the eastern half of the United States, but the footprint of those affected reach as far west as Alaska and Hawaii.

Image zoom Nicole Franzen

Should you be eating turkey right now?

The CDC says it is safe to eat turkey—as long as you know the proper way to safely handle and cook it in your own kitchen. The CDC advises that all turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before being served, using a proper meat thermometer to confirm temperatures before serving your meal.

You should always wash your hands properly when handling raw meat in your kitchen, and take time to sanitize any prep space—but don’t wash raw turkey or poultry in your sink before prepping, as this can help spread any bacteria across your kitchen’s surfaces. Avoid feeding your pets raw meat, but especially turkey, as you can contaminate your kitchen with salmonella bacteria after handling the raw meat in the first place.

Salmonella poisoning can lead to serious symptoms within 12 to 72 hours after first eating the contaminated food, which include chronic diarrhea, high fevers, vomiting, and widespread abdominal pain. Salmonella can often be confused with regular food poisoning.

As Consumer Reports notes, this is the ninth major salmonella outbreak reported by federal agencies this year—and signifies a larger problem where national food security proves to be a major challenge for the government officials tasked with it. A recent proposal aims to solve the issue by consolidating all food safety agencies under the USDA, which makes its way to Congress for approval later this year.

Food Storage – How long can you keep…

Tips

  • How long does raw ground turkey last in the fridge or freezer? The exact answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – keep ground turkey refrigerated at all times.
  • How long does raw ground turkey last after the sell-by date? After ground turkey is purchased, it may be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days – the “sell-by” date on the package may expire during that storage period, but the ground turkey will remain safe to use after the sell by date if it has been properly stored.
  • Unopened raw ground turkey may be kept in its original store packaging when refrigerating; to maximize the shelf life of ground turkey, do not open the package until ready to use.
  • How long can raw ground turkey be left at room temperature? Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; ground turkey should be discarded if left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • To further extend the shelf life of raw ground turkey, freeze; when freezing, place ground turkey in the freezer before the number of days shown for refrigerator storage has elapsed.
  • You can maximize the shelf life of ground turkey in the freezer by overwrapping the original store packaging with airtight heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper or place the package inside a heavy-duty freezer bag in order to prevent freezer burn.
  • How long does raw ground turkey last in the freezer? Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for about 3 to 4 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
  • The freezer time shown is for best quality only – ground turkey that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
  • How long does raw ground turkey last after being frozen and thawed? Ground turkey that has been defrosted in the fridge can be kept for an additional 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator before cooking; ground turkey that was thawed in the microwave or in cold water should be cooked immediately.
  • How long does ground turkey last in the fridge once it is cooked? Cooked ground turkey will usually stay good for 3 to 4 days in the fridge and 4 months in the freezer.
  • How to tell if raw ground turkey is bad? The best way is to smell and look at the ground turkey: signs of bad ground turkey are a sour smell, dull color and slimy texture; discard any ground turkey with an off smell or appearance.

Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please

Jennie-O recalls more than 164,000 pounds of ground turkey in widening salmonella outbreak

By Michael Brice-Saddler Michael Brice-Saddler General assignment reporter December 24, 2018

Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales is recalling 164,210 pounds of raw turkey because of possible salmonella contamination, the Agriculture Department says.

Friday’s announcement came amid a continued outbreak of salmonella in turkey products dating to late last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 52 new cases of salmonella, bringing the total to 216 infected across 38 states and the District of Columbia.

We’ve been getting questions about which JENNIE-O products are involved in the limited recall. Rest assured the recall does not include whole turkeys or products currently in stores. For more information: https://t.co/mD9MKRcrTU

— Jennie-O (@Jennieo) December 21, 2018

One person in California died of the illness, and 84 others have been hospitalized, according to the CDC.

The ground turkey products were produced in Minnesota on Oct. 22 and 23 and are labeled with establishment number P-579 on the side of the tray. The recall includes 1-pound, 2.5-pound and 3-pound packages of Jennie-O ground turkey products, which can be found in grocery stores such as Safeway and Giant.

In a news release, the USDA included photos of the labels of these possibly contaminated products. They urged consumers to throw away or return any potentially contaminated products.


People infected with the outbreak strain of salmonella, by state of residence, as of Dec. 18. (Centers for Disease Control) (CDC/CDC)

The first reported illnesses associated with this strain of salmonella date back to Nov. 20, 2017, according to the CDC. In November of this year, days before Thanksgiving, the Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that a Jennie-O Turkey Store in Wisconsin was recalling 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey.

Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, said in a statement that the company has enacted new steps in their operations to prevent salmonella contamination, including vaccinating their turkeys.

Salmonella has been around for years, he added, and the problem is not exclusive to Jennie-O.

“Unfortunately, Salmonella Reading may continue to be found throughout the industry until all companies take the steps necessary to eliminate it from the system,” Lykken said.

He added, “As always, turkey remains safe to consume when handled and prepared properly.”

The CDC notes in their statement that in interviews, patients report eating “different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations” and that one common supplier has not been declared responsible for the entire outbreak.

The Department of Agriculture said that other companies may also be recalled over the course of their investigation.

In November, the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement that it would be “grossly irresponsible and reckless” to identify the brands or name the companies that operate the facilities “when a link from an establishment to an illness has not been made.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada also reported on Friday 22 cases of salmonella linked to raw turkey and chicken, spanning four provinces. One person died, and five others were hospitalized, according to the agency. While the illnesses in Canada date back to 2017, more than half took place in October and November of this year.

“There have been some turkey products recalled in the U.S. that were associated with this outbreak,” the agency reported. “These products were not imported or distributed in the Canadian marketplace.”

Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever, according to the USDA. Symptoms typically begin one to three days after exposure, and the illness can last for up to seven days. The CDC advises that consumers wash their hands before and after handling raw turkey products and to make sure turkey is cooked thoroughly to kill any germs.

“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,” the CDC said in its news release. “CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and asked about steps that they may be taking to reduce Salmonella contamination.”

Salmonella contamination in turkey is widespread and unidentified as Thanksgiving approaches

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CDC Investigation Notice: Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Turkey Products

An updated CDC investigation notice regarding a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to raw turkey products is now available: https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/reading-07-18/index.html

Updates:

  • Since the last update on December 21, 2018, 63 more ill people were reported, bringing the total to 279 ill people from 41 states and the District of Columbia.
  • 107 people have been hospitalized.
  • One death was reported from California in a previous update. Questions about the death should be directed to the California Department of Public Health.
  • Illnesses in this outbreak occurred from November 20, 2017 to January 29, 2019.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canadaexternal icon has identified ill people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of Salmonella Reading bacteria in Canada.
  • The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading has been identified in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties. The outbreak strain has also been found in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry.
  • Several turkey products have been recalledexternal icon because they might have been contaminated with Salmonella.
  • A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak. The outbreak strain could be present in many facilities and suppliers, meaning many brands and types of foods containing raw turkey could be affected.
  • CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and requested that they take steps to reduce Salmonella contamination in turkeys.
  • This investigation is ongoing and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.

Advice to consumers:

  • Always handle raw turkey carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning.
  • With the exception of the recalledexternal icon turkey products, CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products, or that retailers stop selling raw turkey products.
  • General ways you can prevent Salmonella infection include good handwashing and cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey to check temperature. For turkey burgers, insert thermometer in the side of the burger, into the thickest part of the patty in the center.
  • CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets.
  • More prevention advice here: https://www.cdc.gov/features/turkeytime/index.html

People get sick from Salmonella 12 to 72 hours after swallowing the germ and experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe.

If you have further questions about this outbreak, please call the CDC media line at (404) 639-3286. If you have questions about cases in a particular state, please call that state’s health department.

Thank you,
CDC News Media Branch
404-639-3286

Of those cases, 107 people got so sick they had to be hospitalized. One death has been reported in California in connection with the ongoing outbreak.

According to the CDC, some strains of the salmonella have become resistant to treatment.

Investigators have identified the outbreak strain of salmonella in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties. The germ in question has also been found in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry.

A single, common supplier has not been identified. A number of turkey products have been recalled for possible contamination with salmonella, including Jennie-O Turkey, a subsidiary of food industry giant Hormel. Health officials warn this particular strain of salmonella may be present in many facilities and suppliers, meaning many brands of raw turkey could be affected.

Symptoms of illness from salmonella include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps and typically begin 12 to 72 hours after swallowing food contaminated with the bacteria.

Most people recover from the illness within a few days, but in some cases, it can become severe and complications can arise, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

Aside from the recalled items, officials are not advising consumers to avoid raw turkey products, but stress that it’s important to cook them properly.

The CDC offers the following advice to protect you and your family from infection with salmonella:

  • Always handle raw turkey carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning.
  • Cook turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey to check temperature. For turkey burgers, insert the thermometer in the side of the burger, into the thickest part of the patty in the center.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw turkey.
  • Do not feed your pet raw pet foods.

Three food banks were among the institutions and retailers nationwide shipped ground turkey now being recalled in a multi-state salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least six people in three states.

Butterball, perhaps the nation’s best-known turkey brand, recalled 39 tons of raw turkey possibly tainted with salmonella and distributed to institutions and major grocery chains, including Kroger and Food Lion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said this week.

An incomplete list released Friday by the FSIS identified four locations that received the recalled product, including Second Harvest Heartland in Maplewood, Minnesota; Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC in Raleigh, North Carolina; and St. Joseph Food Program in Menasha, Wisconsin. A retailer, Market Basket, in Andover, Massachusetts, was also named, and had the recall notice posted on its site.

North Carolina-based Butterball recalled just over 78,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products that could be contaminated with what’s known as salmonella schwarzengrund, according to the FSIS. The agency urged consumers not to consume the recalled product and to instead discard or return it to their local store (see list below and product images here).

Recalled products. Butterball

“Because these products were packaged nine months ago, it is highly unlikely any of the product will be found in retail stores, but it is possible that consumers may have product in their freezers,” Butterball said in its own release. The recalled product would have a use-or-sell-by date of July 26, 2018. Still, turkey can be stored unopened in the freezer for up to three years and still be safe to cook, although its quality might start to diminish after seven months.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria consisting of some 2,500 different strains, with salmonella schwarzengrund among the types. Eating food contaminated with salmonella can cause symptoms including abdominal cramps and fever 12 to 72 hours later. The illness, which usually last four to seven days, can be more dangerous for the elderly, infants and those with weakened immune symptoms.

The possible Butterball contamination was discovered by federal and state public health officials investigating a multistate outbreak of salmonella schwarzengrund that sickened five people in two states. Wisconsin officials collected three Butterball brand ground turkey samples from a residential home where four residents had fallen ill.

The fifth illness occurred in Minnesota, with most of the illnesses occurring in the December-January timeframe, a spokesperson for Butterball said.

The recall involves one day of product from one plant, Butterball’s facility in Mt. Olive, North Carolina. The 675,000-square-foot facility outside Raleigh is the largest turkey processing plant in the world, processing 17 million turkeys a year, according to Butterball.

A different strain of salmonella in raw turkey products has resulted in one death and 279 illnesses in people from 41 states and the District of Columbia. There have been multiple recalls of raw turkey products in recent months, including Jennie-O’s adding 164,000 pounds in December to its prior month’s recall of 90,000 pounds.

In an alert Thursday evening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating the outbreak that prompted the Butterball recall, which the agency said had also sickened a sixth person residing in North Carolina. One person has been hospitalized, the CDC said.

“Ill people in the earlier outbreak were infected with a different type of salmonella called salmonella reading. At this time, it does not appear that these two outbreaks are related,” a CDC spokesperson emailed CBS MoneyWatch.

Jennie-O turkey products recalled again due to salmonella concerns

Produced July 7, 2018, the following Butterball prepackaged raw ground turkey products are being recalled (all have “EST. P-7345” inside the USDA mark of inspection):

  • 48-oz. plastic wrapped tray containing “BUTTERBALL everyday Fresh Ground Turkey WITH NATURAL FLAVORING (85 percent LEAN/15 percent FAT)” with sell or freeze by date of 7/26/18, lot code 8188, and UPC codes 22655-71555 or 22655-71557 represented on the label
  • 48-oz. plastic wrapped tray containing “BUTTERBALL everyday Fresh Ground Turkey WITH NATURAL FLAVORING (93 percent LEAN/7 percent FAT)” with sell or freeze by date of 7/26/18, lot code 8188 and UPC code 22655-71556 represented on the label
  • 16-oz. plastic wrapped tray containing “BUTTERBALL everyday Fresh Ground Turkey WITH NATURAL FLAVORING (85 percent LEAN/15 percent FAT)” with sell or freeze by date of 7/26/18, lot code 8188 and UPC code 22655-71546 represented on the label
  • 16-oz. plastic wrapped tray containing “BUTTERBALL everyday Fresh Ground Turkey WITH NATURAL FLAVORING (93 percent LEAN/7 percent FAT)” with sell or freeze by date of 7/26/18, lot code 8188 and UPC codes 22655-71547 or 22655-71561 represented on the label
  • 48-oz. plastic wrapped tray containing “Kroger GROUND TURKEY FRESH 85 percent LEAN – 15 percent FAT” with sell or freeze by date of 7/26/18, lot code 8188, and UPC code 111141097993 represented on the label
  • 48-oz. plastic wrapped tray containing “FOOD LION 15 percent fat ground turkey with natural flavorings” with sell or freeze by date of 7/26/18, lot code 8188 and UPC code 3582609294 represented on the label
  • Turkey safe to eat

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