USDA says it hasn't identified turkey brands linked to salmonella outbreak

With Thanksgiving only a week away, public health and regulatory officials are under pressure to identify the turkey brands linked to the recent salmonella outbreak.

The turkey salmonella outbreak, which started a year ago, has continued to progress. As of Nov. 5, 2018, 164 people in 35 states have been infected. Sixty-three people have been hospitalized and one person in California has died. The states most affected include Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, and New York.

Consumer Reports called on the USDA to list all the brands associated with the drug-resistant strain of salmonella on Wednesday.

"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."

In response, the USDA said that their food inspectors have not yet identified a source or supplier of the product or products that are making people sick.

"We continue to work around the clock with our federal and state public health partners to solve this. It is insulting to suggest that the agency would not move forward if we had actionable information. FSIS is a public health agency that moves forward when science can serve as the foundation of our action plan-not when emotion or pressure from for-profit industry or special interest groups demand it," a statement from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said.

The strain of salmonella causing the current outbreak has been found in samples from turkey pet food, live turkeys, and in raw turkey products in Minnesota, the CDC said. It has also been found in samples of raw turkey products from slaughterhouses and meat processors.

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While the CDC is not advising consumers to avoid eating cooked turkey this Thanksgiving, it is recommending handling raw turkey carefully, including washing your hands before and after preparing or eating turkey.

Cutting boards, counters, and utensils should also be thoroughly washed to prevent the spreading of germs from raw turkey to food preparation areas.

Additionally, cooking raw turkey thoroughly (to an internal temperature of 165F, 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.

Salmonella infection can cause symptoms of what is commonly referred to as "food poisoning."

Symptoms include fever, stomach aches, and diarrhea which typically develop within 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.

WLS-TV contributed to this report.
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