Just in time for Thanksgiving: Ground turkey recall linked to salmonella outbreak
- Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales of Barron, Wisconsin, has recalled about 147,276 pounds of raw ground turkey linked to a multidrug-resistant salmonella illness outbreak, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
- The company — which is part of Hormel Foods — said in a release that four varieties of recalled products were produced at one facility on Sept. 11 and should no longer be in stores. The recalled products are in one-pound packages, bear establishment number P-190 inside the USDA mark of inspection and were shipped to retail locations in 23 states, Jennie-O said.
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Nov. 5, 164 people from 35 states were infected with the outbreak strain, 63 had been hospitalized and one death was reported in California. Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence found raw turkey from a variety of sources was contaminated with the outbreak strain, the agency said. No single common source has yet been found to account for the entire illness outbreak.
The outbreak strain of salmonella was found in samples of raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products and live turkeys, the CDC said. Even though it apparently hasn't been found in any fresh or frozen Thanksgiving turkeys, the timing is still bad for Jennie-O and its parent company Hormel Foods. Besides the harm to the brand, this recall could cause problems for other turkey suppliers and retailers for whom the holiday represents a big sales boost.
Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, noted in a statement that salmonella isn't specific to Jennie-O, and that the turkey industry has been working together for many years to reduce the incidence of the pathogen.
"Despite these efforts, this particular Salmonella strain can be found in 29 different manufacturing plants from 19 different companies, according to government agencies," he said, adding that turkey remains safe to consume when handled and prepared properly, and that Jennie-O will continue to work with others in the industry on best practices.
In its Nov. 16 investigation notice, the CDC suggested this outbreak points to an industry-wide problem.
"The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry," the agency said. "CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and asked about steps that they may be taking to reduce Salmonella contamination."
FSIS said in a Nov. 14 statement shared with Politico that it doesn't have sufficient evidence to cite where the contaminated turkey products came from, and it also refused to link any specific producers with the outbreak investigation because it's "not helpful to consumers." The agency also criticized consumer groups that want to know which 19 companies have had the outbreak salmonella strain found in their plants and allege FSIS deliberately won't release such information.
"Trace back investigations are conducted in the field through on the ground work, not Monday morning quarterbacking from the comforts of an urban high rise in New York City or K Street in Washington, D.C., with fundraising pleas attached," the agency's statement said.
Jean Halloran, Consumer Reports' director of food policy initiatives, said the agency should release any other information it has to help consumers make shopping choices during the holiday season.
"USDA should also inform the public of the brands processed at those facilities," she said in a statement. "Every turkey sold in grocery stores has the code for the processing facility on its label, which consumers could check."
As this recall plays out, it should become clearer how it will impact Hormel and the wider turkey industry. Jennie-O has been a drag on earnings for its parent company, although the segment posted an 8% increase in organic sales for the third quarter, thanks to boosts in sales of premium deli and lean ground products.
Hormel CEO Jim Snee told Food Dive this past spring that despite an oversupply of turkeys, resulting in lower prices, the company had no plans to sell the unit.
"It is still a business that we are incredibly optimistic about. We know that it’s on trend. We know that consumers as they look for more healthier offerings, turkey fits squarely in where the consumer is going," Snee said. "We’re in it for the long term, that’s the bottom line."
The company may shift its position if the recall ends up taking too big a bite out of profits for the fourth quarter and heading into 2019. The recall could also involve other producers besides Jennie-O, and it could change the way consumers feel about turkey as they gather around the Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Shoppers may decide to take a closer look at ham or other entrées for this holiday season. Even plant-based products such as Tofurky could see a sales bump.
At this point, it's still uncertain how the salmonella contamination occurred, so until more information is made public about where and when it happened, the situation doesn't bode well for Jennie-O in particular or the turkey industry in general.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/news-releases-statements-transcripts/news-release-archives-by-year/!ut/p/a1/jY_RCoJAFES_xQ9Y9m6W6KNIlpqKSGb7ElusumCrqBj29Sk9GUXOfRo4M5fBFKeYStaLnHWikqycPNUuEIFGDAvc0DZtcALVTvRgR2C7GYHzDDDIBCRR6FkW6IG6MP9DJvzLuwserBrf8nNMa9YVSMiswqnkjxY1vOSs5Yg1t0L0v
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Infections Linked to Raw Turkey Products
- Jennie-O LIMITED JENNIE-O® GROUND TURKEY PRODUCT RECALL