Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a multi-state outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella linked to contaminated raw turkey products, and Texas is one of the states hardest hit.
At least 164 people in 35 states were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading, resulting in 63 hospitalizations and one death. States with more than 10 cases are California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Texas.
On Wednesday, Consumer Reports, a nonprofit product review publication, called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to list the brands associated with the drug-resistant strain of salmonella, following a CDC report indicating the infection might be “widespread in the turkey industry.” No supplier linking the cases has been identified thus far.
“The USDA should immediately make public which turkey producers, suppliers, and brands are involved in this outbreak – especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner,” Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “This information could save lives and help ensure consumers take the precautions needed to prevent anyone in their home from getting sick.”
Salmonella affects around 1.2 million Americans every year, causing diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps up to three days after infection, according to the CDC. Most people recover in four to seven days without medical treatment, but some experience diarrhea severe enough to require hospitalization.
In some cases, salmonella can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream, and then to other places in the body. Children younger than 5, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to severe illnesses.
The CDC said testing has identified the outbreak strain in raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products collected from patients’ homes, and live turkeys. The outbreak strain was also found in samples of raw turkey products from 22 slaughter and seven processing facilities.
While the CDC is not advising consumers to avoid eating properly cooked turkey products or retailers to stop selling raw turkey products, the agency stresses washing your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey and making sure it’s cooked completely.
Counters, cutting boards, and utensils should also be thoroughly washed to prevent the spreading of germs from raw turkey to food preparation areas. Cooking raw turkey thoroughly – to an internal temperature of 165°F, measured by placing a thermometer in the thickest part of the food – will help prevent food poisoning. Feeding raw meat to pets is also discouraged.
“This outbreak is a reminder that raw turkey products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick,” the CDC stated.