The investigation into the outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg that led to at least 76 illnesses and one death since March has resulted in a recall of 36 million pounds of turkey products. Cargill, an international food producer, announced the voluntary recall yesterday of the meats processed in its Springdale, Ark., plant that may be contaminated with the antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella bacteria.

“While facts continue to be gathered, and … 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, in a news release.

A list of the recalled products can be found here.

Food safety advocates have urged stronger consumer protections against antibiotic-resistant salmonella. In March, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg and three other strains that have caused outbreaks and recalls as “adulterants,” making products that contain them illegal to sell.

“That would trigger new testing for those strains and make it less likely that contaminated products reach consumers,” CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein said today in a statement.

“USDA has a responsibility to move proactively to prevent outbreaks, rather than just responding to them once they occur,” she said.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends consumers practice the following to prevent salmonellosis and other foodborne illnesses:

  • wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly;
  • keep raw meat separate from other foods;
  • cook raw meat and poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit as determined with a food thermometer; and
  • refrigerate raw meat promptly.
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