A Salmonella outbreak traced to Cargill Inc. ground turkey has claimed 130 more victims – workers laid off at the company’s Springdale, Ark, processing plant.
“We have people who don’t have any work,” Cargill spokesman Mike Martin told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Minnesota-based meat company, which employs a total of 1,200 people at the Arkansas plant, said the layoffs were necessitated by the continued shutdown of the turkey processing line. Located in the Arkansas poultry-growing region, it produces about half of Cargill’s “Honeysuckle” brand turkey products, and the company’s other turkey plant, in Virginia, can’t make up for that lost production, Martin said.
Cargill’s crisis dates to Aug. 3, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reported that a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg had been traced to the Cargill plant. Cargill Meat Solutions, the turkey subsidiary, recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey that could possibly be contaminated.
The plant was cleaned, then reopened a few days later. But the company closed the turkey processing again on Sept. 11 and recalled another 185,000 pounds of ground turkey.
Martin said the company is waiting for clearance from the Agriculture Department to resume ground turkey production at the Springdale plant. “We are talking to the USDA virtually daily to see what it takes to re-start ground turkey production,” Martin told the Star Tribune.
The recall and closure have severely hurt turkey sales by one of the nation’s biggest turkey producers, Martin said.
The outbreak, which began in February, sickened 129 people in 34 states, from California to New England and the Deep South. A California man died of Salmonella poisoning.
The worst-hit states were Texas and the Upper Midwest.
The onset of new illness was as recent at Sept. 13.