We now know it’s Cargill’s ground turkey that is at the epicenter of the 26 state, 77 illness Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, so, inevitably, we have to take a deeper look at Cargill’s other Salmonella outbreaks. Including the present ground turkey Salmonella outbreak, Cargill ground meat has been the source of multiple Salmonella outbreaks and recalls over the last decade:
- Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef November, 2009
- Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef June, 2009
- Emmpak/Cargill Ground Beef January, 2002
One interesting feature of these three past outbreaks, and the present one, is that all involve strains of Salmonella that are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics. According to the CDC’s statement Monday on the ground turkey outbreak, of the 58 confirmed cases for who information is available, 22 have required hospitalization. I have no idea whether that includes the person from Sacramento who died. This is a hospitalization rate of at least 38%, which is quite high for Salmonella bacteria.
The significance? Antibiotic resistance is problematic, especially for those consumers at increased risk for extra-intestinal infection. Blood borne salmonella illnesses (salmonella sepsis) are an emergency, sometimes fatal health problem. Moreover, antibiotic resistance is associated with a higher rate of hospitalizations generally in Salmonella outbreak situations (by some estimates, as many as 2.5 times), increasing the burden not only on the victims of the outbreak, but also on public health, health care providers, and also the cost of people’s medical care.
Speaking of medical care costs, who should foot the bill for the 22 people who have required hospitalization as a result of Cargill’s contaminated ground turkey?