Salmonella-tainted turkey meat blamed for deadly outbreak

According to the Centers for Disease Control there are more than 250 different foodborne diseases. Most are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. But poisonous chemicals that can enter the food supply such as pesticides are also a problem. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are often symptoms, but there is no one "syndrome" that describes foodborne illnesses. In rare cases in the developed world, they can be deadly.What are the most common to foodborne illnesses to look out for? Here's the list from the Centers for Disease Control. iStockphoto

Salmonella outbreak has sickened scores and caused one death, federal officials say
iStockphoto

(CBS/AP) Who's responsible for the ground turkey meat behind a deadly outbreak of salmonella poisoning? Federal officials aren't saying, though they say the outbreak has sickened 76 people in 26 states and caused one death.

The officials didn't say where the death occurred and declined to issue a recall.

The CDC says all the victims were sickened by the same strain of salmonella - one that's resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics.

The outbreak dates back to March, and the CDC said Monday that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed salmonella. The agency said preliminary information linked three of the samples to the same production establishment but did not name the retailers or the manufacturers.

Late last week the USDA issued an alert about the illnesses, urging consumers to properly cook their turkey to curb the risk.

Ground turkey is safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. For turkey patties or burgers, internal temperatures on each side should be measured.

Other government advice:

  • *Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours of purchase - one hour if temperatures in the house exceed 90 F.

  • *Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours of cooking it.

  • *Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry.

The USDA has not responded to requests for comment on why there has not been a recall. The CDC said it and the USDA were "vigorously working to identify the specific contaminated product or products that are causing illnesses and will update the public on the progress of this investigation as information becomes available."

Bill Marler, a food-safety advocate and a laywer who has represented victims of the nation's biggest food-borne illness outbreaks, said he thought the three positive samples should prompt a recall.

"Consumers have no idea what to do except not eat ground turkey," he said.

Which states have been hit by the outbreak? Michigan and Ohio had 10 illnesses each, while nine illnesses were reported in Texas. Illinois had seven, California six and Pennsylvania five.

Other affected states are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin, the CDC said.

The CDC said 26 states were affected but only listed 25 states in which illnesses were reported in a news release issued Monday evening.

University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said the government's handling of the outbreak raises ethical questions about why the public wasn't warned sooner.

"You've got to protect the public health," Caplan said. "That's their first and primary value - not industry, not any other goal. They have to warn as quickly as they think there's reasonable evidence for concern."

The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans each year get sick from food poisoning, including about 3,000 who die. Salmonella causes most of these cases and federal health officials say they've made virtually no progress against it.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight hours to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It can be life-threatening, especially to those with weakened immunity.

The CDC has more on salmonella

  • David W Freeman

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