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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Cargill and FSIS found Salmonella Heidelberg in Arkansas Plant in 2010

cdc_logo_Cargill.jpgThe CDC reported as of August 12, there are a total of 107 persons infected (with one death) with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 31 states between February 27 and August 9, 2011. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (3), California (6), Colorado (2), Georgia (2), Illinois (13), Indiana (1), Iowa (2), Kansas (1), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (1), Michigan (12), Minnesota (2), Mississippi (1), Missouri (4), Nebraska (2), Nevada (1), New York (2), North Carolina (3), Ohio (10), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (5), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (2), Texas (14), Utah (1), and Wisconsin (4).

On August 3, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, a Springdale, Arkansas establishment, recalled approximately 36 million pounds of ground turkey products with use or freeze by dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11 that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.

Interestingly, in the August 4, CDC-USDA Telebriefing on the Salmonella Heidelberg Investigations the following exchange occurred:

Tom Skinner (CDC Media Relations): Shirley, we’ll take questions from two more callers, please.

Operator: Thank you. Next from Lisa Baertlein with Reuters. You may ask your question.

Lisa Baertlein (Reuters): Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I am wondering if the plant or the USDA inspectors are testing for—or were testing for Salmonella Heidelberg, and if so, when was the last time that happened?

David Goldman (FSIS Assistant Administrator): Okay, this is Dr. Goldman again. We—as part of our testing program, we test on—as mentioned, periodic basis for a consecutive number of days of production. The last—and we call them sets, because it’s a group of tests that conducted over a period of time that we do as part of our verification activities. The last set in that plant was from 2010. And what we do is we isolate Salmonella, and then we conduct serotype testing, antimicrobial resistance testing as well as PFGE analysis on those isolates, and all of that gets fed into a database that communicates with PulseNet. So as I mentioned, the last set was done in that plant in 2010. And at that time there were three positive Salmonella Heidelberg isolates among the positives in that set. (my emphasis)

According to Reuters:

And the company said on Friday that Salmonella Heidelberg was detected at the Springdale plant even earlier than that March discovery.

Routine regulatory testing at the plant in June and July of 2010 found Salmonella Heidelberg on the surface of turkey before it was ground, Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said, but “no corrective action was required because of the low level found.” Martin added that Salmonella Heidelberg is one of the most common of the 2,400-plus strains of Salmonella

So, three positive Salmonella Heidelberg isolates found on turkey in the Arkansas Cargill plant in 2010. Can we presume that the three isolates are the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg found in this outbreak and recall? Perhaps Lisa needs to ask a follow-up question? Perhaps the recall should be extended before the use or freeze by dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11? Perhaps the recall should be larger that 36,000,000 pounds?