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Here's what the CDC says on keeping Thanksgiving safe this year.

Zee Krstic
November 09, 2018

UPDATE: After an initial outbreak report on July 19, federal officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that one person has died in California due to a salmonella outbreak linked to turkey. While no official recalls have been issued as of yet, 164 people in 35 different states have reported illnesses related to eating undercooked turkey—including ground turkey and other products—and nearly 50 percent of these individuals have been admitted to hospitals due to serious sideffects.

What's causing all the sickness? A certain strain of salmonella, known as Salmonella Reading, has been found in "live turkeys from several states, and from raw turkey products collected from ill people’s homes," the CDC bulletin reads. Federal officials are still investigating to see if they can determine a common supplier causing the outbreak.

When the news first broke back in July, only 90 people in 26 states had been affected—but the first death, and an additional 82 percent increase in cases overall, is alarming for home cooks who are preparing for Thanksgiving celebrations in just two weeks.

 

The latest recall news:

Currently, both the United States Department of Agriculture and the CDC are working together to identify a solution—they've asked major turkey producers for advice to help American consumers avoid salmonella contamination this holiday season, the update says.  

What does this mean for your Thanksgiving feast?

As we first reported, these illnesses all fall within the last year—and range from ground turkey to turkey breasts or drumsticks. Right now the CDC and other federal safety agencies are saying that it is safe to eat Thanksgiving turkey, pending further investigation.

Michael Pohuski/Getty Images

But as Americans gear up to eat another 46 million plus turkeys this Thanksgiving, it's important to follow all the safety procedures when preparing your Thanksgiving meal. The CDC advises that all turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before being served, and taking the time to use a meat thermometer to confirm temperatures before serving your meal is crucial.

You should always wash your hands properly when handling raw meat in your kitchen, and take time to sanitize any prep space. Don't, however, wash raw turkey or poultry in your sink before prepping, as contact on surfaces can help spread any bacteria.

A few of these cases are associated with pet food as well—avoid feeding your pets raw meat, but especially turkey, as you can contaminate your kitchen with salmonella bacteria after handling the raw meat in the first place.

Salmonella poisoning can lead to serious symptoms within 12 to 72 hours after first eating the contaminated food, which include chronic diarrhea, high fevers, vomiting, and widespread abdominal pain. Salmonella can often be confused with regular food poisoning.

We'll continue to update this story as more information becomes available. For more details on this widespread issue, continue reading our original report below:

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The original story, published July 20, 2018, continues below:

Ninety people in 26 different states have suffered infections from disease-resistant salmonella after handling or consuming raw turkey products since November, 2017—upwards of 40 individuals were hospitalized since then due to serious conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday. The federal agency partly responsible for consumers' safety isn't launching a recall or asking Americans to lay off turkey, but their investigation into this outbreak yielded a need to caution the public about preparing and cooking raw turkey. No deaths have been linked to this outbreak as of yet. 

You might ask why we're just hearing of this salmonella outbreak now: Laura Gieraltowski, one of the leaders of the food-borne outbreak response team at the CDC, told Consumer Reports that the agency chose to not alert the public because they were unable to find a common source that sparked the sicknesses. The CDC still has not found a source of the contamination or pinpointed one manufacturer, production space, or farm to explain why so many have fallen ill, Gieraltowski says. 

Since the first cases of salmonella poisoning were reported nine months ago, there have been many possibilities about the source of the contamination. Some victims had handled or eaten ground turkey. Others consumed turkey breasts or drumsticks. And of course many had purchased whole turkeys—more than 46 million turkeys were consumed during Thanksgiving last year.  

“We have ill people that are reporting lots of different types of turkey products with lots of different brands, and purchasing them from many different locations,” Gieraltowski told Consumer Reports. The CDC advises people to also take precautions when it comes to feeding your pet: Two illnesses in the outbreak occurred in homes where people fed their pets raw turkey. (Though there are many advocates of feeding pets raw food, we recommend against it.)

More on foodborne illnesses currently making headlines:

While the CDC has been unable to discover what is fueling the slow-but-steady spread of salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service claims that it has found the strain of salmonella linked to the 90 cases in various turkey processing facilities. It also has spotted the particularly viral strain of salmonella in 19 different slaughtering facilities and six different processing plants. According to an official announcement, both the CDC and the USDA are working with representatives within the turkey industry to try and prevent further contamination in the future.  

Many of those who became ill were traced to the eastern half of the United States, but the footprint of those affected reach as far west as Alaska and Hawaii. 

Nicole Franzen

Should you be eating turkey right now?

The CDC says it is safe to eat turkey—as long as you know the proper way to safely handle and cook it in your own kitchen. The CDC advises that all turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before being served, using a proper meat thermometer to confirm temperatures before serving your meal.

You should always wash your hands properly when handling raw meat in your kitchen, and take time to sanitize any prep space—but don't wash raw turkey or poultry in your sink before prepping, as this can help spread any bacteria across your kitchen's surfaces. Avoid feeding your pets raw meat, but especially turkey, as you can contaminate your kitchen with salmonella bacteria after handling the raw meat in the first place. 

Salmonella poisoning can lead to serious symptoms within 12 to 72 hours after first eating the contaminated food, which include chronic diarrhea, high fevers, vomiting, and widespread abdominal pain. Salmonella can often be confused with regular food poisoning.

As Consumer Reports notes, this is the ninth major salmonella outbreak reported by federal agencies this year—and signifies a larger problem where national food security proves to be a major challenge for the government officials tasked with it. A recent proposal aims to solve the issue by consolidating all food safety agencies under the USDA, which makes its way to Congress for approval later this year. 

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