Salmonella outbreak prompts mass US turkey recall

A product subject to meat giant Cargill's recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak is shown in Redwood City, California - 3 August 2011 The ground turkey was labelled under a number of different brands

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US food giant Cargill is recalling 18,000 tons (16,330 tonnes) of turkey after a salmonella outbreak that has killed one person and made dozens ill.

The firm said it was suspending production of ground turkey at one of its plants as it carries out one of the biggest meat recalls in US history.

The meat has been labelled and sold under a number of different brands.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified, but health officials suspect contaminated ground turkey.

Twenty-six states across the US have reported 77 cases of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg between 1 March and 1 August, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier this week.

While the source has not been pinpointed, leftover turkey containing the same strain was found in the California home of the one man known to have died from the illness.

Voluntary recall

Cargill said the fresh and frozen ground turkey products being recalled were produced at its Springdale, Arkansas, plant between 20 February and 2 August.

Production of ground turkey at the plant has been suspended until the source of the outbreak is confirmed, Cargill said.

The firm has published a list of the labels the ground turkey has been marketed under.

In a statement, the Minnesota-based firm said it was recalling the turkey as a result of its own investigation, information from the CDC and an ongoing US Department of Agriculture investigation into the outbreak.

"While facts continue to be gathered, and currently there is no conclusive answer regarding the source of Salmonella Heidelberg contamination, given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace," said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill's turkey processing business.

The CDC says 50 million Americans get sick from food poisoning each year, with 3,000 deaths. Salmonella causes most of those cases.

Infection normally causes diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramps. In some cases it requires hospital treatment.

Health officials recommend people wash hands properly and keep them clean, cook food thoroughly, chill foods properly and avoid cross-contamination in order to reduce the prospect of contamination.

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