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Jennie-O recalls more turkey; industry encourages proper food safety

National Turkey Federation reinforces commitment and reiterates need to practice good food safety procedures

In connection with a foodborne illness outbreak, Jennie-O Turkey Store has voluntarily recalled an additional 164,00 lb. of raw ground turkey products, bringing the total number recalled to nearly 256,000 lb. The latest recall only includes fresh raw ground turkey with expiration dates of Nov. 12, 2018, or Nov. 13, 2018, and is no longer in stores, the company said.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said a total of 216 people from 38 states and Washington, D.C., have become ill, 84 of whom were hospitalized and one of whom died. Illnesses in this outbreak started from Nov. 20 to Dec. 6, 2018.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated that raw turkey products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella reading and are making people sick, CDC noted on its website.

“We have been working with others in the industry on the issue of Salmonella reading for some time. Given the fact that there are only a few sources of turkey inputs such as eggs, turkeys and genetic stock to the majority of large turkey companies in the industry, we know this is a much bigger issue that will require the entire industry to eradicate this strain from the turkey supply,” Jennie-O Turkey Store president Steve Lykken said.

Specific to Jennie-O, Lykken said the company has enacted new processes in its operations, including vaccinating its turkeys to protect from salmonella, improved on-farm practices and banning S. reading in eggs, turkeys and genetic stock from a provider known to be positive for S. reading.

“Unfortunately, Salmonella reading may continue to be found throughout the industry until all companies take the steps necessary to eliminate it from the system.  Having said that, while this specific strain has been in the news lately, salmonella has been in existence for centuries,” he explained. “The turkey industry has been working together for many years to reduce salmonella. Despite these efforts, this particular salmonella strain can be found in 29 different manufacturing plants from 19 different companies, according to government agencies.”

Lykken said Jennie-O plans to continue its leadership role in the effort to reduce salmonella and educate consumers on how to safely handle and prepare raw turkey. It is also calling on others in the industry to do the same.

“We will continue to collaborate on industry best practices with our peers in the turkey industry,” he said.

Practice good food safety procedures

In light of the ongoing investigation into the S. reading outbreak linked to raw turkey, the National Turkey Federation (NTF) also recently reiterated to consumers the importance of practicing good food safety procedures when handling and cooking raw turkey.

“Turkey is a safe and nutritious protein choice for any meal,” NTF president Joel Brandenberger said. “Consumers can have the highest confidence in the safety of the turkey products they purchase. Consumers should also understand that they have ultimate control in the fight against foodborne illnesses, like those caused by salmonella, including Salmonella reading. This particular strain of salmonella is eliminated as effectively as all others by following good food safety practices when handling and cooking turkey, or any raw meat.”

Consumers should follow four simple steps – clean, separate, cook, chill – to help guarantee a safe and healthy meal:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, and ensure that surfaces are clean both before and after coming in contact with raw poultry. Never rinse your turkey -- or any meat or poultry -- as that can spread bacteria that might be present around the kitchen. 
  • Prevent cross-contamination by using different cutting boards to separate raw poultry from produce and other items you’re preparing. 
  • Cook your turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F, as measured by a food thermometer. Cooking to the proper temperature will kill all bacteria with absolute certainty.
  • Chill leftovers immediately, and use or freeze leftovers within three to four days.

Brandenberger said the turkey industry is dedicated to working with the federal government to aggressively tackle any food safety issues.

“Turkey producers have focused on controlling salmonella and other potentially harmful bacteria for decades, and we are now focused on this specific serotype. Since learning of illnesses linked to Salmonella reading and raw turkey, the industry has come together to share information with each other and food safety officials about techniques and interventions on the farm and in the plant that are most effective in reducing harmful bacteria on products. Understanding this outbreak and controlling all serotypes of salmonella, including reading, is the top priority of our industry right now. Nothing is more important than the safety of the food we produce,” Brandenberger noted.

The bottom line is that turkey remains perfectly safe to eat, he added.

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