WASHINGTON (WWJ/AP) – Federal officials say salmonella linked to ground turkey has sickened 10 Michigan residents in recent months, but state officials say no one has died. The Michigan Department of Community Health tells The Associated Press that the first person affected in Michigan fell ill in May.
The federal government says 10 Michigan residents became ill from the same strain of salmonella, which has affected 76 people in 26 states since March. One person has died. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not say where the person who died became sick and released no details about the death.
The U.S. Agriculture Department sent an alert about the illnesses late last week, telling consumers to properly cook their turkey. But the department has not provided any further warnings about the source of the tainted meat and the government so far has declined to say who produced the meat or initiate a recall.
The illnesses date back to March, and the CDC said Monday that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed salmonella contamination. The agency said preliminary information showed that three of the samples have been linked to the same production establishment but did not name the retailers or the manufacturers.
The Agriculture Department oversees meat safety and would be the agency to announce a recall. The department sent out an alert about the illnesses late last week telling consumers to properly cook their meat, which can decrease the chances of salmonella poisoning. But the department has not given consumers any further warnings about the source of the tainted meat.
The CDC said it and the USDA were “vigorously working to identify the specific contaminated product or products that are causing illnesses and will update the public on the progress of this investigation as information becomes available.”
Food safety advocate Bill Marler, an attorney who has represented victims of the nation’s biggest food-borne illness outbreaks, said he believes the three positive samples should prompt a recall. “Consumers have no idea what to do except not eat ground turkey,” he said.
The illnesses are spread all over the country. The states with the highest number sickened were Michigan and Ohio, 10 illnesses each, while nine illnesses were reported in Texas. Illinois had seven, California six and Pennsylvania five.
The remaining states have between one and three reported illnesses linked to the outbreak, according to the CDC: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The CDC said 26 states were affected but only listed 25 states in which illnesses were reported in a news release issued Monday evening.
How can you avoid illness from undercooked meat?
WWJ Newsradio 950′s Pat Sweeting spoke with Frank Saverino, Meat and Seafood Director at Holiday Market in Royal Oak.
Saverino said if you have pre-packaged ground turkey and you are concerned about its safety, cooking is key. It’s not safe to eat if you see pink meat.
“We all know now that we are cooking ground meat so an internal temperature of 160 degrees [farenheit], except for ground poultry which has to be cooked at 165 degrees,” said Saverino.
Saverino suggested that those grilling should have a good instant-read meat thermometer.
“A lot of us are taking the ground turkey and we’re mixing it with wonderful things like sautéed onions and fruits and vegetables, then, we’re just putting them on the grill.” said Saverino.
Just as critical, Saverino cautions us to prevent cross-contamination.
“Before anything goes out to the grill, we’ve got to clean that surface,” said Saverino. “Use hot, soapy water and never, ever use the same plate that you take the raw product out to the grill with to put your cooked products on.”
In addition to properly cleaning surfaces, Saverino said the same goes for utensils and counter-tops.
Click here to visit the USDA website, which offers more information on how to cook meat safely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.