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Raw Turkey Salmonella Outbreak No Concern for Thanksgiving
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Raw Turkey Salmonella Outbreak No Concern for Thanksgiving

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA – November 22, 2018

While Americans prepare to set their Thanksgiving tables, two multistate outbreaks of foodborne illness—E. coli and salmonella—remain under investigation by health officials.

We’ve already written that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued an unusually broad and unequivocal statement: Do not eat romaine lettuce of any type. If you have it on hand, the agency said, dispose of it immediately—even if some has already been eaten and no one got sick. It also warned restaurants and retailers against serving or selling any, including salads or salad mixes containing romaine, and advised people to wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine had been stored.

No common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified.

32 people in 11 states have become sick from eating contaminated romaine lettuce. Of those, 13 have been hospitalized, with one patient suffering from a form of kidney failure. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that 18 people have been infected with the same strain of E. coli in Ontario and Quebec. No deaths have been reported.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its first assessment of that outbreak’s source—a 3.5-mile irrigation canal near Wellton, Arizona that as many as 23 different Yuma County farms relied on for water—earlier this month. Experts believe that it may be the fault of illegal immigrants. Immigrant farm workers are said to be intentionally defecating in farm fields while they pick crops, and the E. coli is said to be leeching into the crops from their fecal matter.

At the same time as some of our most ubiquitous greens are under siege, public health and regulatory officials are also investigating another public health threat especially relevant during this holiday week—a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Reading infections linked to raw turkey products. In that case, 164 people in 35 states have fallen ill, 63 have been hospitalized, and one person has died.

A single product recall has resulted from the investigation. Officials in Arizona collected unopened Jennie-O brand ground turkey from one sick person’s home, in which the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading was identified. Last week, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, LLC, in Barron, Wisconsin, recalled 91,338 pounds of raw ground turkey products that were sold in one-pound packages and have use-by dates of October 1, 2018 and October 2, 2018.

While CDC reports that the Reading strain may be present in live turkeys and raw turkey products, “a single, common supplier … has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak.”

There are also some problems with ground beef. Do not eat, serve or sell beef products that were recalled by JBS Tolleson Inc. of Tolleson, Arizona, because they may be contaminated with salmonella, the CDC advises. As of Thursday, 246 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport in 25 states, the CDC reports. No deaths have been reported, but 59 people have been hospitalized.

Check your freezer for recalled beef, the CDC recommends. The company recalled 6.9 million pounds of beef products in early October, all produced and packaged between July 26 and September 7. It was shipped to more than 100 retailers across the nation under many brand names, and the establishment number "EST. 267" can be found inside the USDA mark of inspection (but may be found elsewhere on the package), according to the CDC. The list of retailers where these products were sold can be found on the USDA website.

A recall was also issued for four types of Duncan Hines cake mix due to possible salmonella contamination, the US Food and Drug Administration said on November 5.

The illnesses were reported in Maryland, Ohio and Wisconsin, the CDC said Wednesday.

The CDC and journalists paid close attention to this topic. The intense focus may be due, at least in part, to the strange timing of this outbreak: days before America’s biggest food-centered holiday, and two weeks after FDA finalized the rules regarding its mandatory recall authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some pose a serious threat to human health. E. coli can cause severe food poisoning, and is a source of gastroenteritis, inflammation of the genitourinary system, and meningitis in newborns.

Author: USA Really