WICHITA, Kan. – Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 129 persons have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, which has been reported from 34 states. Investigative efforts between state, local and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate ground turkey is the likely source of this outbreak.

However ground turkey has not been linked to a significant portion of these illnesses, said a Cargill spokesman.

“While we at Cargill believe that some of the 129 illnesses may be linked to ground turkey that was produced at our Springdale, Ark., processing facility, we feel the public would like to know that a significant portion of those illnesses have not been linked to ground turkey,” Mike Martin, Cargill’s director of communications told MEATPOULTRY.com.

Martin pointed out that information on the CDC website states: “Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that ground turkey is the likely source of this outbreak. Among the 88 ill persons with available information, 47 [53 percent] reported consuming ground turkey.”

No source has been identified for the remaining 82 people who became ill (41 without documented food histories and 41 who had not reported eating ground turkey), Martin added.

“As one of the world’s largest food processors, it is our goal to provide consumers with safe food every time, everywhere,” he continued. “The collective challenge for producers, regulators and food-safety experts is how best to reduce the potential for food borne illness stemming from randomly and naturally occurring bacteria such as Salmonella and its thousands of strains.

"After Cargill’s Aug. 3 voluntary recall, we put in place a USDA-approved food-safety plan at Springdale that includes the most aggressive and advanced sampling and monitoring program in the poultry industry,” Martin said. “We are now exploring additional measures that could be implemented throughout the supply chain to further enhance food safety.

“Working with USDA and an independent panel of food-safety experts we’ve assembled, we believe we will able to further improve food safety and achieve our collective goal for reducing the potential for food borne illness from bacteria such as Salmonella,” he concluded.

An Aug. 24 sample of ground turkey taken from Cargill Meat Solutions’ Springdale, Ark., turkey processing plant by FSIS that tested positive for a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, had recently been confirmed by FSIS as containing the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak strain (XbaI PFGE pattern 58/BlnI pattern 76).

Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, a business unit of Wichita-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, announced on Sept. 11 a second recall of ground turkey of approximately 185,000 lbs. of 85-percent-lean fresh ground turkey products produced at the company's Springdale, Ark., facility on Aug. 23, 24, 30 and 31 as a precautionary measure, due to possible contamination from Salmonella Heidelberg.

The company initially announced on Aug. 3 the recall of approximately 36 million lbs. of fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the same plant from Feb. 20, 2011, through Aug. 2, that may have been contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.