The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that may be associated with use and consumption of ground turkey.
The alert was initiated after medical reports, ongoing investigations and testing conducted by various departments of health across the nation determined there is an association between consumption of ground turkey products and an estimated 77 illnesses reported in 26 states.
CDC is partnering with state health departments to monitor the outbreak while FSIS focuses its investigation on potential identification of a contamination source.
FSIS reminds consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh ground turkey products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry.
In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the patty in order to attain 165-degree internal temperature, consumers should be aware that actual time may vary depending on the cooking method (broiling, frying, or grilling) and the temperature of the product (chilled versus frozen) so it is important that the final temperature of 165F must be reached for safety.
Consumers should not rely on the cooking time for each side of the patty, but should instead use a food thermometer.
Ground turkey and ground turkey dishes should always be cooked to 165F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers also should be reheated to 165F. The color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165F throughout the product.
Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy.
The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.