NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — There’s no reason to skip Thanksgiving dinner because of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey.
That’s according to health officials who’ve been monitoring the year-old outbreak. They say recent recalls linked to the outbreak are only a reminder to properly prepare your holiday bird. Cooking kills salmonella.
Salmonella is considered widespread in poultry, and it’s perfectly legal for supermarkets to sell raw turkey that has the bacteria. Part of the rationale for allowing salmonella is that people don’t eat chicken medium rare, said Timothy Lytton, a Georgia State University law professor. In 1974, a court said that “American housewives and cooks normally are not ignorant and stupid” and that they know how to prepare food so people don’t get sick.
Even though salmonella is not prohibited in raw meat or poultry, regulators check to make sure the number of samples at processing plants that test positive for the bacteria is within standards. Rules are tighter for whole turkeys, and the industry says the chances of finding salmonella in whole birds are “exceedingly low.”
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE OUTBREAK?
The salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey has reportedly caused one death and 164 illnesses across 35 states since last year. Regulators hadn’t been able to tie any cases to a specific product or supplier until recently. Investigators did say 29 unidentified slaughtering and processing plants tested positive for the current salmonella strain.
According to the USDA, the people who got food poisoning reported eating different kinds of turkey products and brands. Cases also included people who handled raw turkey pet food or worked with live turkeys.
Salmonella spreads through animal feces. It is blamed for an estimated one million cases of food poisoning each year, with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. The USDA also notes that cooking should kill any salmonella bacteria on your food.
Jennie-O recalled more than 91,000 pounds of raw turkey in an ongoing salmonella outbreak.
The products being recalled include one-pound packages of raw, ground turkey and were sold nationwide. They had a use-by date of October, but could still be in freezers.
The USDA has tied one illness in Arizona to Jennie-O ground turkey meat. Regulators say more products from other companies could still be linked to the illnesses.
Parent company Hormel Foods Corp. said it owns five of the 29 plants that tested positive for the germ.
WHAT SHOULD COOKS DO?
Health officials say proper handling and cooking should kill any salmonella. The CDC also listed few points to remember:
- Although it’s counter-intuitive, don’t rinse raw turkey. That can spread the germs.
- Wash hands and cooking surfaces that come into contact with raw turkey.
- Cook birds to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
Hormel’s Richard Carlson stressed salmonella in turkey is not unusual and that proper handling and cooking should get rid of it — even in the recalled Jennie-O ground turkey products.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)