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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

119 Illnesses and 1 Death Due to Cargill Salmonella Heidelberg – Tainted Turkey Could Have Been Avoided

Screen Shot 2011-09-16 at 6.55.42 AM.pngYesterday the CDC updated the count of illnesses related to Cargill Salmonella Heidelberg – tainted turkey to a total of 119 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in 32 states between February 27 and August 29, 2011. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (3), California (6), Colorado (4), Georgia (2), Illinois (15), Indiana (1), Iowa (2), Kansas (2), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (1), Michigan (12), Minnesota (2), Mississippi (1), Missouri (5), Nebraska (2), Nevada (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2), North Carolina (3), Ohio (11), Oklahoma (2), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (6), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (2), Texas (16), Utah (1), and Wisconsin (4). Among the 78 ill persons with available information, 31 (40%) have been hospitalized. One death has been reported.

Although there had been prior Salmonella positive test samples from the Cargill plant, it was only in response to the illnesses and death that on August 3, 2011 Cargill was forced to recall approximately 36 million pounds of ground turkey products that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). This was the largest Class I recall in history. It has also prompted lawsuits.

It contrast on September 11, 2011 Cargill recalled approximately 185,000 pounds of ground turkey products that may be contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. That recall occurred after a product sample collected on August 24 tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. No illnesses are reported and no lawsuits have been filed.

Had Cargill had a prior test and hold program, or even a test and ship and recall program, one wonders how many illnesses could have been avoided and how much product would not have ever been recalled? Hopefully, the recall of September 11 is the future of how Cargill is going to handle the issue – Cargill can avoid illnesses, recalls and lawsuits.