Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., from Arkansas, is voluntarily recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey products that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.
That strain of salmonella has killed one person and left about 77 others sick, and the recall is considered the third-largest in U.S. history, according to reports.
The outbreak strain is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics, and 22 people have been hospitalized, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
USDA said 26 states between March 1 and Aug. 3 have reported having people with the outbreak strain of salmonella.
The products being recalled bear the establishment number "P-963" inside the USDA mark of inspection, according to the FSIS.
The meats were listed under many different brand names and a majority of them were under the Honeysuckle White label. Some of the other brands include Riverside Ground Turkey, Natural Lean Ground Turkey and Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers.
The agricultural department said the products were distributed at the retail level nationwide, and that Cargill is requesting that consumers who may have bought the products return them where they were purchased.
"Given our concern for what has happened and our desire to do right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace," said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill's turkey processing business, to ABC News.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 48 million people get sick, and that 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases.
Salmonella infections can be deadly for those with a weakened immune system such as infants, the elderly and people living with HIV infection to name a few.
The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. There can also be some chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days associated with the infection.
Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, under secretary for food safety, at the American Farm Bureau, told the Christian Post that public health must be at the heart of all lawmakers.
"We have to truly impact public health and prevent foodborne illnesses, so we have to measure how we're doing. And we have to work smarter, more efficiently with our resources," Hagen said. "We serve families, friends and neighbors, and have a singular goal: making sure they do not get sick from the food they eat."
Full text of the recall
Cargill initiates voluntary ground turkey recall
Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, a business unit of Wichita-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, today announced an immediate Class I voluntary recall of approximately 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company's Springdale, Ark., facility from Feb. 20, 2011, through Aug. 2, 2011, due to possible contamination from Salmonella Heidelberg.
Source not confirmed. Voluntary recall "right for our consumers and customers"
"While facts continue to be gathered, and currently there is no conclusive answer regarding the source of Salmonella Heidelberg contamination, given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace," said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill's turkey processing business.
Production suspended until more is known
"Additionally, we have suspended ground turkey production at our Arkansas facility until the source can be pinpointed and actions to address it are taken. Public health and the safety of consumers cannot be compromised. It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry. We go to great lengths to ensure the food we produce is safe and we fully understand that people expect to be able to consume safe food, each serving, every time."
Product recall details
Consumers are urged to return any opened or unopened packages of ground turkey items listed on the Cargill 8/3/2011 product recall list (PDF) for a full refund.