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Tainted Turkey: Have You Checked Your Freezer?

Posted on 08/8/2011 by |Personal Health and Well-being | Comments

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In the wake of one of the nation’s largest food recalls  – 36 million pounds of ground turkey suspected of salmonella contamination — federal health officials are urging consumers to check their freezers for ground turkey they may have bought weeks or months ago and to toss any packages that are now on the recall list.

Because the contaminated products, including turkey patties and seasoned ground turkey, were produced between Feb. 20 and Aug. 2 of this year, consumers may have forgotten about packages they bought and froze a while back.

“We’re urging people to check packaging on any ground turkey in their homes and not to eat ground turkey that was part of the recall,” said a spokesman with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(See list of recalled brands below.)

The warning comes as food giant Cargill Inc. announced a voluntary recall last week of fresh and frozen ground turkey linked to a drug-resistant salmonella outbreak in 26 states. At least 77 people have become ill and one has died.

Health officials say the products may be contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg, a strain that is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics.

Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The most common symptoms of salmonella food poisoning, according to food safety experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of consuming contaminated food. Additional symptoms include chills, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Here’s what you need to know about the current recall:

Recalled brand names: Ground turkey products on the recall list include the brands Honeysuckle White, Kroger, Safeway Fresh, Shady Brook Farms, Fit & Active, Giant Eagle, HEB, as well as some unbranded products. The codes on the recalled packages include “Est. P-963.”  For a full list of products, see cargill.com/turkey-recall.

Consumers with questions about the recall: Call Cargill’s consumer relations toll-free at 1-888-812-1646. The toll-free U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline is available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern time) Monday through Friday at 1-888-674-6854.

Safe cooking practices: Ground turkey and dishes using ground turkey as an ingredient should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers should also be reheated to 165 degrees, according to the USDA. Also, remember to wash your hands, cutting board and utensils with warm, soapy water after handling raw meat and poultry.

Photo credit: Delrandall via flickr.com