Salmonella Outbreak in U.S. Linked to Ground Turkey

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Salmonella Outbreak in U.S. Linked to Ground Turkey

08/02/2011

Ground turkey is being linked to an outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of salmonella that has killed one person and sickened 76 others, according to federal officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that this strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to numerous commonly prescribed antibiotics and is often difficult to treat.

The cases of people falling ill date back to at least March 9 and have now been reported by local and state health department authorities in 26 states.

So far, California, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania have been among the states hardest hit by the outbreak.

On Monday, the CDC issued a statement saying that investigators had found that four cultures of ground turkey taken from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 tested positive for this strain of salmonella. Three of the four came from the same manufacturer, according to the CDC. The fourth sample is still under investigation.

Federal officials have declined to name the retailers that sold these contaminated products, or which farms and processing facilities produced them.

Local, state and federal public health officials say they are using the DNA of this bacterium to track down new cases of illnesses and trace back the contamination to its source.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which handles oversight for food safety issues involving ground turkey, has not called for a product recall at this time, apparently because there's not enough data to do so. Instead, the agency last week issued an alert about the outbreak and urged consumers to fully cook and properly prepare their meat.

This marks the second time in recent months that turkey has been tied to a salmonella contamination. In April, 12 people fell ill amid a salmonella outbreak that prompted the recall of nearly 55,000 pounds of Jennie-O turkey burgers.