Thanksgiving turkey this year might come with a side of food poisoning

Gobble gobble.
Gobble gobble.
Image: Reuters/Mike Segar
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One person is dead and at least 164 people have fallen ill in the US in connection with a salmonella outbreak in turkey products spanning 35 states.

The outbreak was first detected last November. It is particularly ill-timed as the Thanksgiving holiday, for which Americans buy more than 48 million turkeys each year, takes place Nov. 22.

“The outbreak strain of salmonella…is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry,” says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a statement.

Federal investigators with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have not yet named any sources of the contamination, sparking criticism from some public health groups. No recalls have yet been requested in relation to the outbreak, and the USDA is deferring updates to the CDC.

Particularly disturbing is that CDC health officials have told Food Safety News that this particular strain of salmonella is proving difficult to treat, an indication that the bacteria is resistant to many of the common antibiotics used in treatment.

The very first indication of salmonella contamination was in November 2017, when a patient with an infection became ill after eating turkey. The government has been attempting to track down the sources of the contamination since.

In a statement yesterday (Nov. 13), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group, criticized the USDA for not being more forthcoming about which products had been implicated in this most-recent outbreak. ”The agency has detected the outbreak strain in samples from raw turkey products from 22 slaughter and seven processing establishments but has not published their names,” the Center wrote.

The CDC recommends following safety practices  in preparing and cooking turkey, but said it was “not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products” altogether.