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Jennie-O recalls more than 164,000 pounds of ground turkey in widening salmonella outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the United States every year. (Video: Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)

Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales is recalling 164,210 pounds of raw turkey because of possible salmonella contamination, the Agriculture Department says.

Friday’s announcement came amid a continued outbreak of salmonella in turkey products dating to late last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 52 new cases of salmonella, bringing the total to 216 infected across 38 states and the District of Columbia.

One person in California died of the illness, and 84 others have been hospitalized, according to the CDC.

The ground turkey products were produced in Minnesota on Oct. 22 and 23 and are labeled with establishment number P-579 on the side of the tray. The recall includes 1-pound, 2.5-pound and 3-pound packages of Jennie-O ground turkey products, which can be found in grocery stores such as Safeway and Giant.

In a news release, the USDA included photos of the labels of these possibly contaminated products. They urged consumers to throw away or return any potentially contaminated products.

The first reported illnesses associated with this strain of salmonella date back to Nov. 20, 2017, according to the CDC. In November of this year, days before Thanksgiving, the Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that a Jennie-O Turkey Store in Wisconsin was recalling 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey.

Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, said in a statement that the company has enacted new steps in their operations to prevent salmonella contamination, including vaccinating their turkeys.

Salmonella has been around for years, he added, and the problem is not exclusive to Jennie-O.

“Unfortunately, Salmonella Reading may continue to be found throughout the industry until all companies take the steps necessary to eliminate it from the system,” Lykken said.

He added, “As always, turkey remains safe to consume when handled and prepared properly.”

The CDC notes in their statement that in interviews, patients report eating “different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations" and that one common supplier has not been declared responsible for the entire outbreak.

The Department of Agriculture said that other companies may also be recalled over the course of their investigation.

In November, the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement that it would be “grossly irresponsible and reckless” to identify the brands or name the companies that operate the facilities “when a link from an establishment to an illness has not been made.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada also reported on Friday 22 cases of salmonella linked to raw turkey and chicken, spanning four provinces. One person died, and five others were hospitalized, according to the agency. While the illnesses in Canada date back to 2017, more than half took place in October and November of this year.

“There have been some turkey products recalled in the U.S. that were associated with this outbreak,” the agency reported. “These products were not imported or distributed in the Canadian marketplace.”

Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever, according to the USDA. Symptoms typically begin one to three days after exposure, and the illness can last for up to seven days. The CDC advises that consumers wash their hands before and after handling raw turkey products and to make sure turkey is cooked thoroughly to kill any germs.

“The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry,” the CDC said in its news release. “CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and asked about steps that they may be taking to reduce Salmonella contamination."

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