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Cargill recalls more ground turkey tainted by salmonella

Production halted at same Arkansas plant

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2011

CHICAGO - Cargill Inc. announced a second recall of ground turkey products Sunday after a test showed salmonella in a sample from the same Arkansas plant tied to a recall issued last month.

The second recall is much smaller than the one the company issued last month for 36 million pounds of ground turkey. That recall followed a salmonella outbreak that federal health officials said had sickened 107 people in 31 states, killing one person.

No illnesses have been tied to the second recall, which was initiated after a sample from the company's plant in Springdale, Ark., tested positive for salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Cargill halted production of ground turkey products at the plant Aug. 2 in anticipation of the recall announced the next day, spokesman Mike Martin said. Equipment was taken apart and steam-cleaned. Limited production resumed Aug. 10 after the USDA approved additional anti-bacterial safety measures, Mr. Martin said.

The sample that tested positive for salmonella was taken Aug. 24, the USDA said. It was the same strain of salmonella tied to the earlier illnesses, the agency said.

Mr. Martin said Cargill added two additional anti-bacterial washes to its processing process in Springdale after the first recall and instituted what he called "the most advanced sampling and monitoring system in the poultry industry."

The problem, he said, is that salmonella is "ubiquitous" and can come from soil, water, poultry feed and any number of other sources. The challenge for Cargill and other food processors is to try to identify and eliminate the sources, reduce the amount during processing and then test for it.

Ground turkey production at the Springdale plant has been suspended again while the Minnesota-based company looks at what other safety procedures might be needed, he said. Production of other products, such as whole turkeys, continues, he said.

USDA officials did not immediately respond Sunday to messages requesting comment.

The second recall covers about 185,000 pounds of ground turkey products, including trays of ground meat and patties, the USDA said. The products were distributed nationwide under the Kroger, Fresh HEB and Cargill's Honeysuckle White brands.

All ground turkey made at the Springdale plant has "P-963" or "963" on the package, Mr. Martin said. Consumers who bought products bearing that identification number can call 888/812-1646 for instructions on what to do, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 50 million Americans get sick each year from food poisoning, including about 3,000 who die. Salmonella causes most of these illnesses.

Government officials say even contaminated ground turkey is safe to eat if cooked to 165 degrees. But it's also important that raw meat be handled properly before it's cooked and that people wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling it. Turkey and other meats should also be properly refrigerated or frozen and leftovers heated.

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