The CDC announced this week that they are investigating a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Reading infections linked to raw turkey products. There are 90 confirmed human cases of illness, and 40 of those have been hospitalized. People are sick in 26 states. Confirmed outbreak Illnesses started on dates from November 20, 2017, to June 29, 2018.
But if you are like me, my first thought was, how are 90 people sick from a product that we all cook? The answer is complicated. Investigators do not know 100%.
In interviews given by sick people to the health agencies, ill people reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations. Two ill people lived in a household where raw turkey pet food was fed to pets.
And testing has shown that the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products. This means the infection might be widespread in the turkey industry and not linked to one particular farm. But maybe, it could be a standard turkey processor?
The CDC Advises
For anyone who raises, processes, and eats turkey, the CDC issued some advisories for all of us to help reduce the spread of the outbreak and stay safe:
- “Wash your hands. Salmonella infections can spread from one person to another. Wash hands before and after preparing or eating food, after contact with animals, and after using the restroom or changing diapers.
- Cook raw turkey thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Turkey breasts, whole turkeys, and ground poultry, including turkey burgers, casseroles, and sausage, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful germs. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check, and place it in the thickest part of the food.
- Don’t spread germs from raw turkey around food preparation areas. Washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended. Germs in raw poultry juices can spread to other areas and foods. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw turkey. Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and other raw meats if possible.
- CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets. Germs like Salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food or by taking care of your pet.”
It is important to note that the CDC is not halting the sale of turkey, asking retailers to stop selling raw turkey products, or telling us to stop eating properly cooked turkey products.
Salmonella is a common bacterium that makes humans sick. In fact, it is among the most common foodborne illness, along with Norovirus and Campylobacter. Since someone can become ill by ingesting contaminated food or by touching domesticated animals (such as chickens, reptiles, turtles, or even guinea pigs), it is a concerning bug. It also has some strains that are becoming drug-resistant.
Salmonella infections in people usually happen through the lack of handwashing or not cooking food to its optimum cooking temperature, which is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.