Thirty-six million pounds of ground turkey have been recalled from the Minnesota-based company Cargill. The recall was announced Wednesday after a Salmonella outbreak which reportedly killed one California resident and sickened at least 77 others, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Infants, older adults, and those with impaired immune systems are at the highest risk of developing a severe illness due to Salmonella.

Cargill is recalling both fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at their Springdale, Ark., plant. The company is recalling product dated as far back as Feb. 20, which may have been contaminated with the strain of Salmonella.

Many of the recalled meats are under the Honeysuckle White label, and all of the packages recalled have the code "Est. P-963."

"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.

Salmonella is a common and dangerous bacterium. There are approximately 2,400 strains, many of which are deadly to humans. Most often, Salmonella is found in plants, animals, water and soil.

The CDC is collaborating with public health officials in various states, and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate the outbreak. Public Health officials are using DNA "fingerprints" of Salmonella bacteria obtained through testing to identify the cases of illness that are part of the outbreak.

People have fallen ill in many different states; Ohio and Missouri have the most recorded sicknesses with 10 instances so far. Close behind are Texas with 9, and Illinois with 7. Recorded illnesses began after March 9. A chart found on the CDC Web site show that the week of June 5 saw the highest numbers of illnesses.

"Suspending production until we can determine the source of the Salmonella Heidelberg at our Arkansas facility, and take corrective action, is the right thing to do," stated Willardsen. "We are closely examining every aspect of our production process and have identified enhancements to our procedures in our efforts to ensure safe food. Eliminating food-borne illness is always our goal."

According to food safety attorney Bill Marler, who publishes a database of outbreak statistics, the ground turkey recall is one of the largest meat recalls ever, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis (illness from Salmonella) are recorded each year in the United States.

How to avoid getting sick (via the CDC Web site)

Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry including frozen, fresh ground turkey. Then, disinfect the food contact surfaces using a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.

Cook poultry thoroughly. Ground turkey and ground turkey dishes should always be cooked to 165 °F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers also should be reheated to 165 °F.

If served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.

Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.

Refrigerate raw and cooked meat and poultry within 2 hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90° F). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 °F or below.

Persons who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated ground turkey should consult their health care providers. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.  

Consumers with questions about recalled ground turkey products may contact Cargill's consumer relations toll free telephone number (1-888-812-1646).