Texans impacted by ground turkey salmonella outbreak

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports as of Nov. 5, 164 people in 35 states have been infected, 63 people have been hospitalized and one person in California has died. Texas is one of the most affected.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service  alerted the public that Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales is recalling approximately 147,276 pounds of raw ground turkey products that may be associated with an illness outbreak of Salmonella Reading.

“This particular outbreak, is Salmonella Reading, and it’s a multi-drug resistant Salmonella which means that it’s extremely robust and virulent and can cause significant illnesses in humans,” said University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management assistant professor and food safety expert Sujata Sirsat.

She said the most susceptible are the old, the young or those with compromised weakened immune systems (chemotherapy or organ transplant patients).

Salmonella is naturally present in the poultry’s digestive system (intestines).

“Salmonella and other bacterial pathogens are the same way--what doesn’t kill them, makes them stronger,” said Sirsat.

While you’re getting your bird ready for the Thanksgiving meal—or anytime you cook poultry, Sirsat said poultry should always be handled as if it does have Salmonella—meaning, you should never rinse it off with water on your sink or counter tops, for fear of cross contamination of food that isn’t going to be cooked.

Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That means if you stuff the turkey when it’s raw, the stuffing must also be cooked to 165 degrees.

Sirsat said more illnesses are expected with this outbreak, as time goes on.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said a single common supplier of turkey products or live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak.

When officials are trying to find the source of food borne illness, epidemiologists interview people who are ill to find out what they ate to try to narrow down a common type of food that may have caused the outbreak. Once they have a suspected type of food, it gets tested for the specific strain of salmonella that they are seeing in the outbreak. They test suspected foods to determine if it is contaminated with the same strain in an effort to determine if it is coming from the same type of product or sold from the same store or produced by the same manufacturer. In this outbreak, they’ve narrowed it to raw turkey products and live turkeys but the people who were ill report eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations. The lab testing also indicates that raw turkey products from a variety of sources are contaminated with salmonella and making people sick.

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