LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — The United States Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey that was linked to a death in California and 76 other salmonella cases.
Seventy-six people in 26 states have been made sick from the same strain of the disease. Four of the cases have been found in California, one each in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside and San Diego counties.
The illnesses date back to March, and the CDC said Monday that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed salmonella contamination, though those are not specifically linked to the illnesses. The agency said preliminary information showed that three of those samples have been linked to the same production establishment but did not name the retailers or the manufacturers.
The Agriculture Department sent out an alert about the illnesses late last week telling consumers to properly cook their turkey, which can decrease the chances of salmonella poisoning. But the department has not given consumers any further warnings about the source of the tainted meat.
The illnesses are spread all over the country. The states with the highest number sickened were Michigan and Ohio, 10 illnesses each, while nine illnesses were reported in Texas. Illinois had seven, California six and Pennsylvania five.
The remaining states have between one and three reported illnesses linked to the outbreak, according to the CDC: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
A chart on the CDC’s website shows cases have occurred every month since early March, with spikes in May and early June. The latest reported cases were in mid-July, although the CDC said some recent cases may not have been reported yet.
University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said the government’s handling of the outbreak raises ethical questions about why the public wasn’t warned sooner.
“You’ve got to protect the public health. That’s their first and primary value — not industry, not any other goal. They have to warn as quickly as they think there’s reasonable evidence for concern,” Caplan said.
He said that uncertainty about the outbreak’s source might explain the long silence, but added, “the moral duty is to really get the word out as soon as you have evidence of a problem.”
CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said Tuesday it can take three to four weeks to confirm one case. Identifying an outbreak can take considerably longer than that when cases of food-borne illness occur sporadically, in several states, as has happened in the current outbreak, she said.
Russell said the CDC isn’t advising the public to avoid eating ground turkey, but does urge people to cook it properly.
Ground turkey is considered safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. For turkey patties or burgers, internal temperatures on each side should be measured.
–Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase, one hour if temperatures in the house exceed 90 F.
–Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.
–Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans each year get sick from food poisoning, including about 3,000 who die. Salmonella causes most of these cases and federal health officials say they’ve made virtually no progress against it.
The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight hours to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It is life-threatening to some with weakened immune systems.
Salmonella infections may last about a week and often don’t require treatment other than drinking plenty of water and other fluids. Sometimes antibiotics are used when the infection spreads from the intestines. The CDC says some salmonella bacteria have become drug-resistant because of antibiotics used to promote livestock growth.
For more information, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For a complete recall list of products in question, click here
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