Just two weeks out from the biggest turkey-focused day of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that 164 people across 35 states have fallen ill from Salmonella-tainted raw turkey.
The CDC said that 74 more people were reported sick in the ongoing outbreak since its last report in July, and the outbreak has been linked to one death in California. Lab tests showed that raw turkey products contaminated with Salmonella had multiple sources of origin, and the outbreak strain was identified in raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys. While the CDC says it believes the sources of the outbreak strain show it could be “widespread,” no products or brands have yet been recalled. The National Turkey Federation said it is cooperating in the ongoing investigation.
“Our members have individually reviewed their Salmonella control programs in all phases of turkey production and are working collectively through NTF to address this and all strains of Salmonella,” it said in a statement on Thursday. “The intense focus of our membership on this issue has allowed the industry to further strengthen guidelines for biosecurity and food safety.”
According to the Associated Press, CDC epidemiologist Colin Basler said that the agency is “still seeing new illnesses being reported on a weekly basis.” But the good news is that the American standard for Thanksgiving dinner is fine for consumption if cooked and handled properly.
“This outbreak is a reminder that raw turkey products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick,” the agency said. “CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products, or that retailers stop selling raw turkey products.”
The agency advised the textbook preventative measures for avoiding Salmonella infection, including washing your hands, avoiding the spread of raw turkey germs in food prep areas, and cooking raw meat thoroughly. The CDC specifically noted on Twitter that folks should thaw their turkeys in the fridge rather than on the counter.
The CDC also advises against giving raw turkey and raw meat in general to pets; at least three people who reported falling sick lived in households where raw turkey was fed to pets.[CDC]