Americans now less likely to pick up turkey burgers

Aug 8, 2011

The salmonella outbreak that prompted the recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey is making consumers wary of a meat that many turned to as a safer, healthier alternative to ground beef, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee. Cargill Meats' decision last Wednesday to call back the product is one of the largest meat recalls in history.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a press briefing Aug. 4 reporting that they are aware of 78 cases of salmonella illness associated with ground turkey between March 1 and Aug. 3, 2011, in 26 states. There has been one related death - a 65-year-old Sacramento County woman.

Of the 78 victims reported to the CDC, 22 have been hospitalized, a rate higher than is typical with salmonella infections, said Dr. Chris Braden, director of the CDC Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, during the briefing.

"We’re working to explore why this may be," Braden said. "One possible reason is that the outbreak strain is resistant to several antibiotics, including ampicillin, tetracycline and streptomycin. This antibiotic resistance may increase the risk of hospitalization and can sometimes lead to treatment failure."

UC Cooperative Extension food science specialist Christine Bruhn told the Sacramento Bee  that, compared with dangerous strains of E. coli, salmonella "is a pathogen to be feared even more."

"There are more deaths every year from this organism than the E. coli that came to everyone's attention in the 1990s with the Jack in the Box outbreak," Bruhn was quoted.

Bruhn suggested that consumers check the temperature of cooked turkey before serving it.

"If you don't have a (meat) thermometer, go to the grocery store and get one and stick it in at an angle," Bruhn said.

Washing hands and anything else that might have touched uncooked meat is also critical.

"Wash your hands, wash the faucet, the top of the soap dispenser, the fridge handle," Bruhn said.

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Even if turkey is contaminated, cooking to 160 degrees through and through ensures the meat is safe.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist