Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales Inc. is recalling about 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products due to the possibility of salmonella contamination, the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said Friday.
The recall was announced as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 52 new cases of illness associated with the outbreak. This brings the number of illnesses to 216 people across 38 states since the outbreak began in November 2017. Eighty-four people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported.
In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday there have been 22 cases of illness in four provinces. The illnesses occurred between April 2017 and this November, but nearly half of the illnesses began in October and last month. Five patients have been hospitalized, and one person died.
"Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to raw turkey and raw chicken products has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak," a public health notice from the agency said. "Many of the individuals who became sick reported eating different types of turkey and chicken products before their illnesses occurred."
According to the CDC, the cases in Canada have the same strain of salmonella as those in the US outbreak.
Health investigators have identified the outbreak strain of salmonella in samples of raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products and live turkeys, the CDC said.
The recalled raw ground turkey products were produced at Jennie-O's Faribault, Minnesota, facility between October 22 and October 23. The recalled packages are marked on the side with establishment number P-579 and were sold in 1-pound, 2.5-pound and 3-pound packages.
On November 15, the company issued a recall of more than 91,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products from its Barron, Wisconsin, facility.
Patients who were interviewed by outbreak investigators reported buying a variety of different brands of raw turkey products from many different stores. "A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak," the CDC said. And the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service noted that additional recalls may be announced for products from other companies.
The investigation is ongoing. "The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry," the CDC said, adding that it and the Food Safety and Inspection Service "have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and asked about steps that they may be taking to reduce Salmonella contamination."
Steve Lykken, Jennie-O Turkey Store's president, said the company has made operational changes, including vaccinating turkeys to protect them from salmonella. He called it a much wider problem across the industry, even without the ongoing outbreak. "We know the issue of salmonella isn't specific to us," he said.
State health officials in Arizona and Michigan identified salmonella bacteria in unopened packages of Jennie-O ground turkey from the homes of two patients with salmonella illness. This bacteria was "closely related genetically" to the bacteria from the patients. "This result provides more evidence that people in this outbreak got sick from eating turkey," the CDC said.
Lykken said, "As always, turkey remains safe to consume when handled and prepared properly. Jennie-O has information available on its website with step-by-step instructions on how to safely prepare and enjoy turkey."
In the meantime, consumers should not eat any recalled products and should take steps to prevent salmonella illness. That includes washing hands and thoroughly cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by a food thermometer. Washing raw turkey is not recommended because it can spread germs. And pet owners should not feed raw food, including turkey, to pets -- the investigation for this outbreak identified three infected patients who live in homes where pets were fed raw turkey pet food.
Salmonella is to blame for 1 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States every year, according to the CDC.
Symptoms usually begin 12 to 72 hours after consuming the bacteria and can last four to seven days. They include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, according to the CDC. Most people recover on their own. Patients who experience severe diarrhea may require hospitalization. If severely ill patients are not treated, the illness can be deadly.
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