Public Health in King County, WA, is reporting that a private event on April 20, 2019, resulted in salmonellosis illnesses likely linked to a deadly national outbreak.

Previously not included, the King County illnesses now are likely part of the national Salmonella Reading outbreak caused by raw ground turkey that has continued past the time when the national investigation ended. Hundreds were sickened and about one-third of those were hospitalized in the national outbreak that also resulted in one death.

King County’s investigation into the private event illnesses included laboratory testing that showed four of the seven people who got sick following the local incident tested positive for Salmonella Reading. All four had the same genetic fingerprint, suggesting a common source for the infection. The other three who were ill also had symptoms consistent with salmonellosis.

Attendees at the private event took multiple potluck items. Assorted smoked and barbecued meats were also available, including pork, turkey legs, and lamb. Some partial preparation occurred at a private residence.

The King County laboratory tests and a national Salmonella Reading outbreak strain associated with raw turkey products closely matched one another. Public Health says the match suggests turkey is the likely source of the illnesses related to April’s private event.

As of April 22, 2019, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported that a total of 358 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading were from 42 states and the District of Columbia. The CDC said available information indicates the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and many types of raw turkey products.

On April 30, CDC declared its investigation of the multi-state Salmonella Reading outbreak over. By then, the outbreak strain was also present in at least 72 Salmonella illnesses in Canada.

Further, it was associated with four national recalls, two for ground turkey and two for pet food.

  • Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Faribault, MN recalled raw ground turkey products on December 21, 2018.
  • Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Barron, WS recalled raw ground turkey products on November 15, 2018.
  • Woody’s Pet Food Deli in Minnesota recalled raw turkey pet food on January 28, 2019.
  • Raws for Paws of Minneapolis, MN recalled Ground Turkey Pet Food on February 5, 2018.

While the national outbreak investigation is final, CDC continues to monitor for reports of ill people because the outbreak Salmonella strain is present in the turkey industry.

Public Health said it was unable to gather details about all the foods served and consumed at the event, and because no product remained for testing, it cannot say for sure which food item was responsible for the illnesses.

Five King County residents and two from neighboring Snohomish County, WA, reported illnesses to Public Health after consuming food and beverages at the private event. A hospital admitted one of the seven for treatment of salmonellosis, but along with the others has since recovered.

During the investigation, Public Health did look into the source and preparation of the pork, turkey, and lamb eaten at the event to identify potential problems with both undercooking and cross contamination. Investigators visited the food facility where the pork, turkey, and lamb were purchased, finding:

  • Temperatures in the facility were correct for all meat products.
  • No processing of the meats occurred there (like cutting or cooking), which could increase the risk of contamination with Salmonella bacteria.
  • Source details for the meat products were collected and sent to the Washington State Department of Agriculture for possible traceback.
  • Public health also provided information about safe food handling practices and how to prevent the spread of the bacteria to those involved.

Public Health serves 2.1 million people in King County, WA including Seattle and all other incorporated jurisdictions in the county.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)