LOS ANGELES - A Cargill Inc unit is recalling roughly 36 million lbs of fresh and frozen ground turkey products due to possible contamination from an antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strain believed to be linked to one known death.
Cargill Value Added Meats Retail said the products were produced at its Springdale, Arkansas, turkey processing facility. It has suspended production of ground turkey products until it is able to find the source of Salmonella contamination at the plant and take corrective actions, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
The company is immediately recalling Honeysuckle White, Shady Brook Farms, Riverside, Aldi's Fit & Active, Giant Eagle, HEB, Kroger, Safeway and Spartan branded ground turkey products as well as unbranded and bulk products that were produced at the facility from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2.
A multi-state outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg believed to be caused by eating contaminated ground turkey has sickened 77 people and resulted in one death in California, according to U.S. health authorities.
Some 26 states have reported illness between March 1 and Aug. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier this week.
Bill Marler, a food safety attorney, had an alert out on the recall before the company announced it.
Marler said reports of illness over such a long period of time suggests "a systemic problem in the plant and not just a blip on the screen."
Cargill, a U.S. agribusiness firm, said other turkey products produced at Springdale are not part of the recall.
The company said it owns four turkey processing facilities in the United States and that no products from the other three plants are involved in the recall.
Cargill urged consumers to return any opened or unopened packages of ground turkey items included in the recall to the store where they were purchased, for a full refund.
Salmonella infection is the most common U.S. foodborne illness and the United States has made no progress reducing outbreaks over the last 15 years.
Most people infected with Salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after exposure. Illness usually lasts four days to one week and most people recover without treatment.
In some cases, individuals develop severe diarrhea that requires hospitalization. The infection may also spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and on to other parts of the and can cause death without prompt treatment with antibiotics.
Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.
Last year, a U.S. salmonella outbreak resulted in the recall of nearly half a billion eggs. Salmonella also is linked to contaminated meats, produce and processed foods. In 2010, it caused nearly 2,300 hospitalizations and 29 deaths.
The CDC estimates that one in six people in the United States gets sick from eating contaminated food each year. Foodborne illness is blamed for about 3,000 deaths annually. (Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Carol Bishopric)
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