Consumer Report Urges the USDA to name turkey brands linked to Salmonella outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated a 26 state outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella in raw turkey products. On November 8, 2018, the CDC reported that 74 more ill people from 26 states were added to this investigation since the last update on July 19, 2018. The outbreak dates back to November 2017 but was first reported in July of 2018.

As of November 5, 2018, 164 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading have been reported from 35 states. The states that have most cases include Texas, Minnesota, Illinois and New York. The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys.

Consumer Reports’ (CR) food safety advocates demanded that the USDA release information about the source of the outbreak, by providing the names of the affected products. This would allow consumers to better protect themselves and their families from salmonella, says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumer Reports.

According to CR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) found the same strain of Salmonella during routine testing of turkey processing facilities in 22 slaughtering facilities and seven processing establishments. However, the USDA/FSIS did not provide any information to the public about the brands involved.

Jean Halloran,  said in a statement “The USDA should immediately make public which turkey producers, suppliers, and brands are involved in this outbreak — especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner.”

However, USDA/FSIS stated, “To be abundantly clear, FSIS has NOT identified a source or supplier of the product or products that are making consumers ill, but we continue to work around the clock with our federal and state public health partners to solve this.”

The strain of salmonella causing the outbreak has been found in many samples including samples from live turkeys, raw turkey products and turkey pet food in Minnesota, the CDC said. It has also been identified in samples of raw turkey products from slaughterhouses and meat processors.

“The salmonella strain isolated from these samples is closely related genetically to the salmonella strain from ill people,” the CDC said.

According to Laura Gieraltowski, Ph.D., leader of the foodborne outbreak response team at the CDC, the investigation into this salmonella outbreak has been complex. “We have ill people that are reporting lots of different types of turkey products with lots of different brands, and purchasing them from many different locations,” she says. People who have become ill have said they came into contact with or ate ground turkey, turkey parts (such as drumsticks or breasts), and whole turkeys.

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