Early this morning, Cargill recalled another 185,000 pounds of turkey products due to potential contamination by Salmonella Heidleberg, the strain responsible for sickening 111 people in 31 states from late February to early August 2009. Today’s recall, which follows Cargill’s prior recall of almost 36 million pounds, comes after continuing tests on product from Cargill’s Arkansas facility revealed positive results for the same strain of Salmonella Heidleberg that caused the outbreak. In other words, Cargill has yet to rid the Arkansas facility of the Salmonella that has been sickening people for months, maybe years.
Keep in mind that the retail samples that tested positive during the outbreak were not the earliest Heidleberg positives from Cargill’s Arkansas facility. It has been well publicized that the outbreak strain (one of them anyways) of Heidelberg was turning up in 2010. What if the same strain was turning up as early as 2009, 2008, and/or 2007? That would make 5 years of the same strain of Salmonella from the same plant. Question is, how many people over that time have been sickened by Cargill turkey without public health knowing it?
And then there’s Cargill’s history generally with outbreaks of foodborne disease:
A. 1993 – Cargill supplied meat to Northwest Sizzler restaurants that was implicated in an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infection involving 39 confirmed and 54 probable cases. Public health investigators said the illnesses were the result of cross-contamination between raw Cargill Tritips and salad bar ingredients.
B. 2000 – Cargill provided meat to Sizzler resturants linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses that killed one person and sickened that 62.
C. 2000 – Sliced turkey from a Cargill processing plant in Texas was found to be the source of a multi-state outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes. The company recalled 16 million pounds of turkey after reports of infection that eventually included seven deaths and 29 illnesses. Eight of the case patients were pregnant and three miscarriages/stillbirths were attributed to the contaminated turkey.
D. 2001 – Cargill ground beef patties tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 after a child from Georgia became ill. Three of the patties were purchased at Kroger and one from Sam’s Club, but all of the ill children and the tested meat had genetically indistinguishable strains of E. coli. Emmpak recalled 254,000 pounds of potentially contaminated ground beef.
E. 2002 – Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Newport was found in ground beef from Emmpak, a Cargill subsidiary. The CDC reported one fatality, 47 illnesses and 12 hospitalizations linked to consumption of the ground beef. Emmpak recalled a record 2.8 million pounds of potentially contaminated ground beef.
F. 2007 – After Minnesota health officials traced 46 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses to ground beef patties, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation recalled 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties from retail locations across the U.S.
G. 2007 – Cargill recalled 1,084,384 pounds of ground beef after federal tests detected E. coli O157:H7 in the product. No illnesses were associated with this recall.
H. 2008 – Beef cheek produced by Beef Packers, a Cargill subsidiary, tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, prompting a 1,560 pound recall. No illnesses were associated with this recall.
I. 2009 – At least 40 cases of Salmonella Newport infection were linked to Beef Packers ground beef in the summer, sparking a summertime recall of 830,000 pounds of ground beef. Then, in December, more Salmonella illnesses tied to the producer’s meat led to a recall of 20,000 pounds of products. Both recalls involved contamination with drug-resistant Salmonella bacteria.
J. 2010 – Cargill Meat Solutions recalled 8,500 pounds of ground beef after reports of illnesses caused by E. coli O26, a rare strain of the bacteria that produces the same Shiga-like toxin as the more common E. coli O157:H7. The meat was distributed by BJ’s Wholesale Club.
K. 2011 – Cargill Meat Solutions recalled almost 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg. One dead and 111 ill.
L. Since 1993, Cargill has been the source of contaminated meat implicated in at least 10 major outbreaks, 10 deaths, three stillbirths and 366 illnesses.