According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strain, which has been found in ground turkey samples, is responsible for 77 illnesses in 26 states, but federal food safety officials are not implicating any one company or initiating a recall.
"Despite an extensive investigation by [USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service] and CDC to date, there is little epidemiological information available at this time that conclusively links these illnesses to any specific product or establishment," said FSIS spokesman Neil Gaffney. "Without specific enough data, it would not be appropriate to issue a recall notice. FSIS is committed to continuing this investigation in order to obtain the additional information necessary to find the source of this outbreak, and take appropriate action to protect public health."
The agency, which is charged with assuring the safety of the nation's meat, poultry and processed egg products, issued a public health alert on Friday urging consumers to use caution when handling raw turkey and to, as always, cook all poultry products to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The most recent CDC update says officials found four retail ground turkey samples to be positive for the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg between early March and late June.
"Preliminary information indicates that three of these products originated from a common production establishment; the fourth is still under investigation," according to CDC. The samples were maintained as part of routine sampling for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), and have "not been linked to illnesses." Salmonella is not considered in adulterant in meat products, so a positive sample does not automatically spark a recall.
Local, state and federal public health officials are collecting information (such as date and location of purchase of ground turkey) from ill persons to conduct traceback investigations, according to CDC.