Cargill’s Wichita-based turkey business is bringing in some outside experts to look at food safety at its Springdale, AR turkey processing facility, which on Aug. 3 recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey.

Cargill recalled the ground turkey after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta linked the product to an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg involving at least 111 confirmed cases in 31 states.

After a brief cessation of turkey production in Arkansas, Cargill resumed operations  with “enhanced” procedures that it said were approved by USDA.  It claims it now has “the most aggressive Salmonella monitoring and testing program in the poultry industry.”

Now it has named Michael Doyle from the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety; Barbara Masters, the former administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); and Craig W. Hedberg from the University of Minnesota’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences, to a review panel.

The panel will “look at the entire process from live animal operations through ground turkey production,” according to Steve Willardsen, Cargill’s president of turkey processing. 

During a shutdown that last about two weeks, Cargill disassembled and steam-cleaned equipment. It  started requiring  suppliers to add a wash, and it has added two anti-bacterial washes at its processing plant. Intensifying an existing anti-bacterial system was also part of the new program.

Minneapolis-based Cargill is an international food and agricultural company with operations in 63 countries. It recently reported annual revenue of just under $120 billion.

  • Lee

    The Cargill press release identifies Dr. Doyle and Dr Hedberg with their current positions. It identifies Dr. Masters with a previous position. Since 2007, Dr. Masters has been a senior policy adviser to the law firm Olsson Frank Weeda, etc. which represents meat and poultry processors and their trade associations before Congress and the FSIS. Clients include: American Meat Institute, National Meat Institute, Association of Food Industries,Food Safety Service Providers, KRAFT Foods (including its Oscar Meyer Divsion). All of the above have worked to limit FSIS actions to protect Americans against foodborne illness caused by meat and poultry products contaminated with microbial pathogens(including Salmonella).
    The Center for Food Safety and the University of Georgia lists eight current research projects for Dr. Michael Doyle. Six of these are funded by corporations, or national or state food industry trade associations.
    It is unlikely that these reviewers will suggest changes at Cargill’s plants that run contrary to the interests of the company or the industry. In fact, it is unlikely that they are able to conceive or recognize approaches to the problem that would require the industry to consider eliminating Salmonella from poultry. Not likely hear proposals for eliminating salmonella from breeding stock or grow out houses. Almost sure to get yet another admonition to consumers to “just cook it well done” that don’t consider cross-contamination to other foods.