The Grapevine

Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Raw Turkey, CDC Says, 1 Dead, Dozens Sick

Health officials have confirmed the first death due to the on-going, raw turkey-associated Salmonella outbreak in the United States. Over the past year or so, 164 people from 35 states have been infected by the strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading has been identified in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties," the CDC stated. "The outbreak strain has also been found in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry."

Around 12 to 72 hours after a person is exposed to the bacteria, he or she will typically experience symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Most people will recover from the infection within 3 to 7 days without the need for medical treatment. But in the minority of cases, especially among older adults and infants, there is a risk of severe illnesses which could lead to hospitalization, long-term complications, or even death.

Yet, even with Thanksgiving just around the corner, the CDC is not asking people to avoid consuming or selling turkey. Rather, it offers a reminder to follow the right method of preparation when cooking turkey products. 

As noted in the recommended safety tips, avoid eating raw turkey or feeding it to your pets. And when handling the uncooked product, wash every surface it comes into contact with — this includes your hands, kitchen counters, cutting boards, and other utensils. This prevents the potential spread of harmful bacteria.

Forgoing stuffing could also reduce the risk as it could be an additional source of bacteria. But should you choose to stuff the turkey, make sure you follow these guidelines. The center or the inside of the turkey must reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill the germs.

While the outbreak started in November 2017, no single, common supplier has been identified in the lab tests. The contamination has been found in raw turkey products from a variety of sources, including ground turkey and turkey patties. 

"We are still seeing new illnesses being reported on a weekly basis," said Colin Basler, an epidemiologist with the CDC.

Estimates suggest 1.2 million salmonella cases occurring in the country on a yearly basis, most commonly caused by contaminated food. Recently, the packaged food company Conagra Brands, Inc. voluntarily recalled boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix due to a suspected salmonella contamination.

"Consumers are reminded not to consume any raw batter. Cake mixes and batter can be made with ingredients such as eggs or flour which can carry risks of bacteria that are rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling," a statement from Conagra Brands advised.