Aug 1, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a public health alert about a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections thought to be linked to eating ground turkey.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said it issued the Jul 29 alert after receiving a steady stream of medical and investigation reports from several state health departments. Epidemiologic investigations and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis studies have linked 77 illnesses in 26 states to the outbreak. Federal officials have not listed the states.
So far, authorities have not named a specific company or issued a recall notice for the products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its state partners are monitoring the outbreak, and the FSIS is investigating possible contamination sources.
The FSIS urged consumers to follow package cooking instructions for fresh or frozen turkey products and to use food safety precautions when handling raw meat or poultry. It advised making sure turkey patties reach an internal temperature of 165° F before serving, regardless of cooking time specified on package directions, because cooking methods and product temperature may vary.
Earlier this year the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition and food safety watchdog group, filed a regulatory petition asking the FDA to declare Salmonella Heidelberg and three other antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains as adulterants in ground meat and poultry. Classifying the four as adulterants would trigger testing for them , allowing them to be recalled before they reach consumers.
In April, federal officials announced they were investigating an outbreak linked to Jennie-O turkey burgers contaminated with Salmonella Hadar, another of the four antibiotic-resistant strains. At least 12 infections in 10 states were connected to the outbreak, according to an earlier report from the CDC.
Jul 29 USDA press release
May 26 CIDRAP News story "Petition asks USDA to classify drug-resistant Salmonella as meat adulterant"
Apr 4 CDC outbreak notice