Turkey recall raises US food safety questions

August 6, 2011 00:26

LOS ANGELES - US food safety advocates are calling for changes to meat recall rules after regulators took months to warn the public about a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 80 people and caused one death.

Cargill Inc., one of the largest US meat producers, on Wednesday recalled roughly 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey produced at its plant in Springdale, Arkansas, after investigators linked the meat to a person who became ill with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg.

A government agency that tracks antibiotic-resistant pathogens found evidence of the contamination in Cargill ground turkey in early March, and the five-month lapse of time between that discovery and the recall has sparked a renewed debate about how the United States protects the public from tainted meat.

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.

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