Last year, in a USDA study, 10% of ground turkey retail samples were positive for Salmonella. Now we are in the midst of a major, multi-state Salmonella outbreak, made worse by the fact that the turkey meat involved is contaminated by a strain of Salmonella that is resistant to many antibiotics commonly prescribed to treat Salmonellosis. The current case count stands at 77 in 26 states, including one person from California who died.
Of course, ground meat Salmonella outbreaks are anything but a new phenomenon. Here is a short summary of past Salmonella outbreaks associated with ground turkey and beef, courtesy of www.outbreakdatabase.com:
Safeway markets in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico sold contaminated ground beef. A rare, drug resistant, strain of Salmonella Newport was isolated from the ill. No recall was issued as the Food Safety and Inspection Service could not identify the specific “establishments, lots and products” that received the ground beef. An alert was issued, on December 21 that advised Safeway customers to refrain from eating ground beef that had been purchased between September 19 and November 5.
A Beef Packers, Inc. plant in California owned by Cargill, distributed approximately 830,000 pounds of ground beef that was likely contaminated with Salmonella Newport. The beef was shipped to distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah where it was repackaged into consumer-sized packages and sold under different retail brand names. The contaminated beef contained a strain of Salmonella resistant to several commonly used antibiotics (called MDR-AmpC resistance). At least 40 people in nine states fell ill; at least 21 of the people lived in Colorado and five lived in California. Most people became ill during late June and early July. Most of the ill in Colorado had purchased the ground beef at Safeway grocery stores. Ground beef was likely sold through other retail outlets as well. Cargill is a privately held, multinational corporation whose business activities include production of crop nutrients, grain, livestock feed, agricultural commodities, and ingredients for processed foods.
King Soopers, Inc., a supermarket chain, recalled approximately 466,236 pounds of ground beef that was linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium DT 104 in the state of Colorado. The beef had been distributed in the states of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The recall involved tray packs and chubs. The ground beef was produced on various dates ranging from May 23 to June 13, 2009. The Salmonella was resistant to many the antibiotics.
In December, Beef Packers, Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled over 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport. The company issued an earlier recall in August 2009, due to contamination of ground beef with the same strain of Salmonella Newport. This contaminated ground beef was produced in September and was distributed to Safeway grocery stores in Arizona and New Mexico. The Arizona Department of Health linked two illnesses to the ground beef.
Jennie-O-Turkey Store, All Natural Lean White Meat Turkey Burgers were recalled on April 1, 2011, after an outbreak of Salmonella Hadar had been linked with the consumption of this product. The turkey burgers were sold exclusively in 4-pound cartons through Sam’s Club stores. Consumer turkey burger samples in two states were confirmed to be contaminated with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Hadar. The Salmonella Hadar is known to be resistant to several antibiotic drugs, including ampicillin, amoxicillin/clavulanate, cephalothin, and tetracycline. The Jenny-O Turkey Store is part of the Hormel Foods Company.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert, on July 29, due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that may be associated with the use and the consumption of ground turkey. The alert was initiated after continuous medical reports, ongoing investigations and testing conducted by various departments of health across the nation determined that there was an association between consumption of ground turkey products and an estimated 77 illnesses reported in 26 states. The illnesses were linked through epidemiologic investigations and laboratory testing.