Meat production this week is up about 3 percent compared with the previous week, according to market reports by SiriusXM’s Rural Radio. That’s still off by as much as a third from a year ago. The numbers are causing some retailers to ration fresh meat purchases or risk selling out their entire supplies.

The beef, pork, and poultry markets were all tossed in April when the coronavirus pandemic struck, leading to temporary plant closures and production cutbacks. And more than ever the public sees the safety of employees in meat plants as synonymous with food safety.

If May does produce the recovery that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue predicts will become a reality in the next seven to 10 days, the restart of a giant pork plant in Sioux Falls, SD, by Smithfield Foods will be a big contributor.

Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls returned to the old John Morrill plant Thursday to make preparations for getting production underway. The return to full operations is being done in phases. The kill floor will re-open on Monday, giving 550 independent hog producers a market for the first time in almost a month.

A Smithfield statement for the media says “the company is in full compliance with all CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance.”

The statement also says COVID-19 testing of more than 2,000 Smithfield employees by South Dakota public health staff will continue as the reopening ramp-up goes forward. At full operation, the Smithfield plant employs 3,700 and generates 5 percent of all U.S. pork production.

“I toured the plant with our Joint Union Management Safety Committee and was impressed with the measures put in place to protect employees,” said B.J. Motley, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 304A. “Smithfield is doing everything they can for the employees and their safety. We stand with Smithfield to get the plant back open.”

Smithfield says employee health and safety are the core of its reopening plan with adherence to the CDC-OSHA requirements being a minimum. Personal protective equipment (PPE) with masks and face shields are being used at all Smithfield facilities. Mass thermal scanning and physical barriers for production floors and break areas have been installed to protect employees.

The Smithfield, VA-based company employs 40,000 people in the U.S., and Smithfield, Eckrich, and Nathan’s Famous are among its brands.

Further meat production declines were prevented when the White House put the industry under the Defense Production Act to protect the U.S. food supply. Secretary Perdue, under DPA authority, ordered the implementation of the CDC-OSHA standards to protect the meat industry employees from contracting the virus at work.

Perdue says “patriotic meat processing facility workers are returning to work to make sure that America’s producers and ranchers can bring their product to market and the American people can have food to eat.”

About 8,000 meat industry employees are infected with the COVID-19 virus, a number that represents 6.15 percent of the industry’s national minimum workforce of 130,000. Twenty-seven meat industry deaths are blamed on the virus.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) says COVID-19 is responsible for the deaths of three USDA meat inspectors, one from Illinois, Mississippi, and New York.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says 197 field inspectors were absent from work as of May 5 and 120 were under self-quarantine. FSIS employs 6,500 meat and poultry inspectors who are assigned to regulate establishments throughout the country.

FSIS initially offered to a $50 reimbursement to their meat inspectors to purchase face masks. The agency now says it is providing all inspection personnel with face masks and shields.

Update:  This morning, Secretary Perdue  released a list of  major meatpacking facilities that “are resuming operations across the United States this week:”

  • Tyson Perry, IA (pork)
  • Tyson Waterloo, IA (pork)
  • Tyson Logansport, IN (pork)
  • Tyson Robards, KY (poultry)
  • Tyson Portland, ME (further processor)
  • Tyson Pasco, WA (beef)
  • Tyson Dakota City, NE (beef)
  • Aurora Packing, Aurora, IL (beef)
  • JBS Green Bay, WI (beef)
  • JBS Worthington, MN (pork)
  • Smithfield Monmouth, IL (pork)
  • Smithfield Sioux Falls, SD (pork)
  • Indiana Packers, IN (pork)
  • Jennie-O Turkey Store, Wilmar, MN (poultry)

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Officials continue to warn people to properly handle and cook poultry amidst an ongoing three-year Salmonella Reading outbreak that has sickened more than 120 people in Canada with the same strain of the bacterium that hit people in 43 U.S. states.

At least 16 more people in Canada were confirmed as patients in the outbreak there in November. The Public Health Agency of Canada expects additional sick people to be identified because it is taking between five and six weeks for confirmation testing and reporting for most cases.

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the outbreak over in April, the agency continues to monitor the multi-state PulseNet system for additional ill people. In the U.S. the outbreak ran from November 2017 through the end of March this year.

Of the 126 confirmed patients in Canada and the 358 in the United States, one died in each country. Hospitalization rates have been higher than usual for Salmonella infections, with 38 in Canada and 133 in the United States having been admitted for in-patient care.

“The Public Health Agency of Canada is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey or chicken products, nor is it advising retailers to stop selling raw turkey and raw chicken products. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not issued any food recall warnings related to this outbreak,” according to the update Wednesday from Canadian public health officials.

In the U.S. several human and pet foods were recalled, including some Jennie-O brand turkey products and pet food sold under the Woody’s and Raws for Paws brands.

Canadian officials have come to similar conclusions as their U.S. counterparts in terms of root sources of the Salmonella.

“Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to raw turkey and raw chicken products has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported eating different types of turkey and chicken products before their illnesses occurred,” Canadian public officials report.

“Through the use of a laboratory method called whole genome sequencing, some Salmonella illnesses dating back to 2017 were identified to have the same genetic strain as the illnesses that occurred in late 2018. The majority of illnesses under investigation occurred between October 2018 and November 2019.”

The province of Alberta has been hardest hit in the outbreak, with 44 confirmed patients. Other provincial counts are: British Columbia with 31, Saskatchewan with 8, Manitoba with 24, Ontario with 8, Quebec with 2, New Brunswick with 1, Prince Edward Island with 1, Northwest Territories with 1, and Nunavut with 6.

Canada’s public health agency reports that despite their country’s patients being infected by the same strain as patients in the United States none of the recalled U.S. products were exported to Canada. 

Click on map to enlarge.

Officials in the United States reported the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading was identified in samples taken from raw turkey products, raw turkey pet food, and live turkeys. The CDC investigation, which included work by state health departments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, showed widespread contamination through the turkey industry. Industry groups have promised to review mitigation procedures.

“Ill people reported buying many different brands of raw turkey products from multiple stores. Also, 4 of the 200 ill people interviewed became sick after pets in their home ate. Five of the 200 ill people interviewed worked in a facility that raises or processes turkeys, or lived with someone who did. In February 2019, 47 people became ill after eating turkey that was not handled properly at an event in Iowa,” according to the CDC.

“The outbreak strain was also identified in samples from raw turkey products from 24 slaughter and 14 processing establishments.”

Consumers are responsible for properly handling and cooking poultry to avoid cross contamination and undercooking, according to Canadian and U.S. officials.

“This outbreak is a reminder of the importance of using safe food handling practices if you are preparing, cooking, cleaning or storing raw turkey and raw chicken products. These raw products can have bacteria that can easily be spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick if safe food-handling practices are not properly followed,” the new Canadian warning states.

The Public Health Agency of Canada posted the following tips to ensure food safety with poultry:

  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch raw turkey and raw chicken. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Always cook turkey and chicken products to a safe internal temperature that has been checked using a digital thermometer.
  • Turkey and chicken breasts, as well as ground poultry, including turkey and chicken burgers, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 74 degrees C (165 degrees F) to kill any harmful bacteria. Whole turkey and chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 82 degrees C (180 degrees F).
  • Leftovers should be reheated to 74 degrees C (165 degrees F). Use a digital food thermometer to check, and place it in the thickest part of the food.
  • Thaw frozen raw turkey and raw chicken in the fridge. Thawing raw turkey and raw chicken at room temperature can allow bacteria to grow.
  • Never rinse raw turkey or raw chicken before cooking it because the bacteria can spread wherever the water splashes.
  • Use a separate plate, cutting board, utensils and kitchen tools when preparing raw turkey and raw chicken.
  • Clean everything that has come in contact with raw turkey or raw chicken with a kitchen cleaner or bleach solution and then rinse with water.
    • Kitchen cleaner (follow the instructions on the container)
    • Bleach solution (5 mL household bleach to 750 mL of water)
  • Keep raw turkey and raw chicken away from other food while shopping, storing, repackaging, cooking and serving foods.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a Salmonella infection or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not cook food for other people.
  • Do not feed raw ground turkey or raw ground chicken to your pets. Bacteria like Salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food or by taking care of your pet.
  • For more information, read the agency’s poultry safety fact sheet.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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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.

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Federal officials say new outbreak cases of Salmonella infections linked to raw turkey products have dropped significantly since the deadly outbreak was detected. As of today, 358 people in 42 states have been confirmed infected.

In its “final” outbreak update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this afternoon said additional illnesses are likely to occur because there is a good chance consumers have the implicated turkey in their home freezers. Freezing does not kill most foodborne pathogens. Poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F to kill pathogens, including Salmonella.

Of the 358 people who have been laboratory-confirmed with Salmonella Reading infections as part of the outbreak, 133 had to be admitted to hospitals. One person died.

“The number of reported new illnesses has decreased, but people could continue to get sick,” according to the outbreak update. “CDC will continue to monitor the PulseNet database for any new illnesses, and public health partners will continue to investigate any reported new illnesses. 

“A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys was not identified. People could continue to get sick because this Salmonella strain is present throughout the turkey industry, including raw turkey products, packaged raw pet food, and live turkeys.

“… CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry, including the National Turkey Federation, and requested that they take steps to reduce Salmonella contamination.”

The most recent confirmed patient reported to the CDC became ill on March 31. It can take four weeks or more for victims to be added to the CDC’s outbreak log because of the lag time between symptom onset, initial testing, followup testing, reporting to local/state public health officials, and data submission to CDC.

The first confirmed patient in the Salmonella Reading outbreak became sick on Nov. 20, 2017. Ill people ranged in age from less than 1 year to 101 years old, with a median age of 42.

More than 300 samples collected from patients, live turkeys, and environmental swabs from turkey businesses showed antibiotic resistant genes, according to the CDC.

The isolates — 180 from ill people and 134 from food, animal, and environmental samples — contained genes for resistance or decreased susceptibility to some or all of the following antibiotics: ampicillin at 52 percent of all 487 isolates; streptomycin at 32 percent; sulfamethoxazole at 31 percent; tetracycline at 32 percent; kanamycin at 3.4 percent; gentamicin at 0.6 percent; nalidixic acid at 0.4 percent; ciprofloxacin at 0.4 percent; trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole at  0.4 percent; and fosfomycin at 0.2 percent.”

Ill people reported buying many different brands of raw turkey products from multiple stores. Also, four of the 200 ill people interviewed became sick after pets in their home ate raw ground turkey pet food . Five of the 200 ill people interviewed worked in a facility that raises or processes turkeys, or lived with someone who did. 

In February this year, 47 people became ill after eating turkey that was not handled properly at an event in Iowa, according to the CDC outbreak update.

Public health officials in Arizona and Michigan collected unopened Jennie-O brand ground turkey from the homes of ill people. Officials in Minnesota also collected raw turkey pet food that was served to pets in ill people’s homes. 

The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading was identified in samples of the ground turkey and the raw turkey pet food. Whole genome sequencing showed that Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people, from ground turkey, and from raw turkey pet food were all closely related genetically. In scientific lingo that means they were virtually the same.

“These results provided more evidence that people in this outbreak got sick from eating or handling turkey products,” according to the CDC update.

Several Jennie-O brand ground turkey products were recalled in November and December 2018. Raws for Paws recalled raw turkey pet food in February 2018, and Woody’s Pet Food Deli recalled raw turkey pet food in January 2019.

The outbreak strain was also identified in samples from raw turkey products from 24 slaughter and 14 processing establishments. The samples collected by FSIS at these slaughter and processing establishments were part of FSIS’s routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards.

Information for consumers
Food that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria usually does not look, smell or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated food and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. 

Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

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There are three current multistate outbreaks of Salmonella in the United States. Two–infections linked to Butterball Brand Ground Turkey and Precut melons–are outbreaks that began in 2019 and the third involving ground turkey was a 2018 outbreak of raw ground turkey products that remain open.

Taken together, the three have sickened 279 people resulting in 107 hospitalizations and one death. One or the other of these outbreaks has spread the Salmonella infections to nearly every one of the 50 states.

How were these outbreaks possibly made worse?

It can happen, according to Yaohui Sun and Alex Mogilner of New York University. Salmonella bacteria can “flip an electric switch” as they catch a ride inside immune cells, causing migration out of the gut to invade other parts of the body.

Sun, Mogilner and their NYU colleagues discovered how the switching mechanism works, sometimes upping the toxicity of Salmonella, a common food-borne pathogen that comes in hundreds of strains or stereotypes.
Their findings were reported in the open-access journal PLOS Biology on April 9.

Salmonella causes over 400,000 deaths each year, making it both the commonest and deadliest cause of food poisoning, according to the NYU study. Deaths result when the bacteria escape the gut inside immune cells called macrophages.

“Macrophages are drawn to bacteria in the gut by a variety of signals, most prominently chemicals released from the site of the infections,” according to Science Daily’s summary of the study. “Once there, they engulf the bacteria like a regular part of their infection-fighting job.”

But they might not remain there. They might enter the bloodstream “disseminating the bacteria and greatly increasing the gravity of the infection.”

The NYU researchers found tissues in the gut can generate electrical fields that can drive the migration of cells, including macrophages.

In the new study, PLOS reports the authors first showed that the lining of the mouse cecum (the equivalent of the human appendix) maintains a cross-membrane electrical field and that Salmonella infection altered this field and contributed to the attraction of macrophages.

Measurements of the polarity of the local charge indicated that the macrophages were attracted to the anode or positively charged pole within the field. Once they engulfed bacteria, however, they became attracted to the cathode and reversed their migratory direction, moving away from the gut lining, toward vessels of the circulatory system. This switch was driven by an in the composition of certain charged surface proteins on the macrophages; the mechanism by which bacterial engulfment triggers this change is still under investigation.

“Dissemination, rather than localized infection, is the greatest cause of mortality from Salmonella (and other food-borne bacteria), and so understanding more about this polarity switch is likely to help develop new treatments to reduce deaths from food-borne bacterial infections,” Mogilner told Science Daily.

As for those three active outbreaks, the one that’s been active for the longest time involves Salmonella Reading from raw turkey products mostly associated with Jennie-O Turkey produced in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Jennie-O recalled ground turkey in both November and December of 2018.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta last reported on the outbreak on Feb. 13, 2019, when 279 illnesses were confirmed in 41 states and the District of Columbia.  CDC has not declared the outbreak over.   It did report a common supplier for all the turkey products involved, including pet food, has not been identified.

Butterball Brand ground turkey was, however, immediately named as the source for the first Salmonella outbreak to get underway in 2019.   It is smaller than the 2018 outbreak, involving six confirmed cases in three states.   Only one ill person has required hospitalization and the Butterball outbreak hasn’t caused any deaths.

CDC’s reported on the first Salmonella outbreak on March 14, 2019.    The strain involved is Schwarzengrund.

And, on April 12, 2019, CDC disclosed the ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Carrau involving pre-cut melons.   In the initial announcement, the agency blamed 93 illnesses in nine states on the outbreak.  No deaths have resulted, but 23 people have required hospital treatment,

In concert with the outbreak announcement, Caito Foods in Indianapolis recalled a massive amount of pre-cut melon products.

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The deadly multistate outbreak of multiple drug-resistant Salmonella infections linked to raw turkey products continues to expand, according to the latest update from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

The outbreak dates back to last July and the most recent of four associated recalls occurred only two weeks ago.  According to the latest report:

  • Since the last update on December 21, 2018, 63 more ill people were reported, bringing the total to 279 ill people from 41 states and the District of Columbia.
  • 107 people have been hospitalized.
  • One death was reported from California in a previous update.
  • Illnesses in this outbreak occurred from November 20, 2017, to January 29, 2019.
  • The Health Agency of Canada has identified ill people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of SalmonellaReading bacteria in Canada.
  • The outbreak strain of SalmonellaReading has been identified in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties. The outbreak strain has also been found in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry.
  • Several turkey products have been recalled because they might have been contaminated withSalmonella.
  • A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak.
  • The outbreak strain could be present in many facilities and suppliers, meaning many brands and types of foods containing raw turkey could be affected.
  • CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and requested that they take steps to reduce salmonella contamination in turkeys.
    This investigation is ongoing and the CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.

CDC’s advice for consumers:

  • Always handle raw turkey carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning.
  • With the exception of the recalled turkey products, CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products, or that retailers stop selling raw turkey products.
  • General ways you can prevent salmonella infection include good handwashing and cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F.  Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey to check the temperature. For turkey burgers, insert a thermometer in the side of the burger, into the thickest part of the patty in the center.
  • CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets.
  • More prevention advice here.

People get sick from Salmonella12 to 72 hours after swallowing the germ and experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe.

History of associated recalls:

On January 28, 2019, Woody’s Pet Food Deli in Minnesota recalled External raw turkey pet food. The recalled product was sold in 5-pound plastic containers labeled “Woody’s Pet Food Deli Raw Free Range Turkey” and was sold in Minnesota.

On December 21, 2018, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, LLC, in Faribault, Minnesota recalled approximately 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products. The recalled ground turkey was sold in 1-pound, 2.5-pound and 3-pound packages labeled with the establishment number “P-579”. This is found on the side of the product tray package.

On November 15, 2018, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, LLC, in Barron, Wisconsin recalled approximately 147,276 pounds of raw ground turkey products. The recalled ground turkey was sold in one-pound packages labeled with the establishment number “P-190”. This is found inside the USDA mark of inspection.

On February 5, 2018, Raws for Paws of Minneapolis, MN recalled approximately 4,000 pounds of its External in  5 pounds and 1 pound chubs of Ground Turkey Pet Food.

Do not eat, sell, or serve recalled turkey products.

CDC will update the advice to consumers and retailers if more information becomes available, such as a supplier or type of raw turkey product linked to illness.

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Bacterial contamination was the No. 1 cause of almost all recalls posted by the USDA during the fourth quarter of 2018, while undeclared allergens were the top cause for recalls of food under the FDA’s jurisdiction.

In its 2018 4Q Recall Index, released this morning, Stericycle reported 97.7 percent of the recalls under the jurisdiction of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) were initiated because of bacterial contamination. The pathogen behind 98.6 percent of the FSIS’s bacteria-related recalls was Salmonella. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over meat, poultry, and some processed egg products.

Public health officials detected a Salmonella outbreak in November 2018 that was traced to raw turkey products, resulting in recalls of more than 250,000 pounds of Jennie-O brand turkey. The most recent outbreak update posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Jan. 29, reported 216 people across 38 states had been confirmed with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading. Of those patients, 84 were admitted to hospitals. One person died.

Even with the large turkey recalls, beef recalls were No. 1 in terms of pounds of product recalled. Almost 72 percent of USDA-recalled products were beef. Beef was the top USDA category for recalled pounds in three quarters in 2018. 

Driving beef to the top spot in Q4 were recalls by multi-national giant JBS. The company recalled more than 12 million pounds of beef in relation to a Salmonella outbreak. In the CDC’s most recent outbreak update, posted Dec. 12, 2018, laboratory tests had confirmed 333 people across 28 states had been infected. Of those patients, 91 were admitted to hospitals. No deaths had been reported. 

Overall, there were 17 million pounds of food recalled under USDA oversight during the last three months of 2018.

For foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which account for about 80 percent of food sold in the United States, undeclared allergens were responsible for not only the highest percentage of recalls, but also for the largest numbers of individual units recalled, according to the Stericycle report.

Undeclared allergens were the impetus for 46 percent of recalls under FDA’s jurisdiction, accounting for 81 percent of the food units recalled in Q4 of 2018. One large recall of candies dominated the recalls, making up 80 percent of all recalled food units under FDA’s oversight.

There was a total of 156 recalls of FDA-regulated foods during the last quarter of 2018, according to Stericycle.

Stericycle aggregates and tracks recall data from a variety of sources including the FDA, the USDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Highway and Transportation Administration. The full Q4 2018 Recall Index is available at https://www.stericycleexpertsolutions.com/recall-index/.

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Woody’s Pet Food Deli is recalling three date codes of raw turkey pet food found by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to be contaminated with Salmonella. The agriculture department initiated testing after the Minnesota Department of Health identified a human case of Salmonella Reading linked to the pet food.

Public health officials discovered during their investigation that Woody’s Pet Deli raw turkey pet food was fed regularly to a pet in the household of the infected individual. The pet tested positive for a different strain of Salmonella.

Woody’s is a small Minnesota-based chain of pet food shops, with locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Woodbury.

The recalled product was sold in 5-pound plastic containers, identified as “Woody’s Pet Food Deli Raw Free Range Turkey,” and bearing one of the following Use By dates: 01/10/20, 01/12/20, 01/15/20.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating an ongoing multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Reading infections linked to raw turkey products from multiple sources. The outbreak has been in progress since November 2017. As of Dec. 18, 2018, there had been 216 cases of Salmonella Reading illnesses reported in 38 states. One person has died and 84 have been hospitalized. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has been tracking 33 Salmonella illnesses in six provinces. Those patients are linked to raw turkey and raw chicken products. The same outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading has been recovered from both Canadian and U.S. patients.

No single source or supplier in either the United States or Canada of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has been identified that could account for the whole outbreak.

In November 2018 and again in December 2018, Jennie-O-Turkey Store Sales in Wisconsin and Minnesota respectively recalled nearly 128 tons of raw ground turkey products that were associated with the Salmonella Reading outbreak.

This is the second pet food recall linked to the Salmonella Reading outbreak. In February 2018, Raws for Paws recalled about 4,000 pounds of ground turkey pet food after two children were infected with Salmonella Reading. The outbreak strain was recovered from samples of the Raws for Paws food fed to pets in the household where the children lived. One of the two children was hospitalized with osteomyelitis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection in people usually include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Infected pets may experience diarrhea, fever and vomiting, or may be without symptoms. Even asymptomatic pets may shed Salmonella in their feces, spreading the infection in the environment.

Individuals who have purchased the recalled Woody’s product should throw it out or return it for a full refund. Consumers with questions should telephone their Woody’s store or contact the company by email at info@woodyspetdeli.com.

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Editor’s note: Today Food Safety News takes a look back at the most significant outbreaks in the United States in 2018. As in the past, our year-end coverage is not merely a list of individual stories by individual writers. Generally, significant events are the other way around. Multiple stories by multiple writers are involved in our outbreak coverage. It takes a newsroom — not solo work — to give readers the information they have come to expect from us.


The 21 foodborne illness outbreaks logged on the CDC’s “List of Selected Outbreak Investigations” for 2018 show Salmonella was the pathogen behind the vast majority of multistate events in the past 12 months. But, the list doesn’t include information on the number of intrastate outbreaks.

Investigators from the Centers for Disease and Prevention provide assistance to state officials during outbreaks that are defined by state boundaries, but the federal agency does not include one-state outbreaks in its regular reporting.

Public perception is, understandably, that the number of food-related outbreaks has been increasing in recent history. That perception has spurred people to post theories on social media, placing the blame on everything from terrorist attacks to wimpy immune systems they say have been compromised by too much hand sanitizer and parents who vaccinate their children.  

However, food safety experts say there’s more to the equation than year-to-year numbers and urban myths.

Top scientists at the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dozens of academic research facilities, and food industry organizations all say technological advances are key variables in the outbreak detection formula. Since 2009, the development of new laboratory techniques has fine tuned the detection and identification of pathogens. 

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is largely responsible for those improvements. And, a database that CDC has been building in recent years — and a similar international project — is allowing public health officials to link seemingly unrelated patients from far flung areas by using so-called DNA fingerprints of specific strains of pathogens. 

That technology allows disease detectives to identify outbreaks earlier by enabling scientists to match lab test results from sick people to pathogens isolated from samples of food. Many such food samples are collected as part of routine, random testing programs by the FDA, USDA, and state health officials.

Matthew Wise, deputy chief of CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, told Food Safety News high-tech tools can also help contain outbreaks. 

“The good news is that CDC’s national laboratory network, PulseNet, uses whole genome sequencing more often to identify the most common bacterial culprits and connect the dots between sick people and contaminated food,” Wise said. 

“We are also providing funding to support state and local health departments’ capacity for epidemiologic work. As a result, we may be finding more outbreaks in the early stages so we can work with state and federal partners to identify the source faster and alert people as to what to avoid to prevent getting sick.”

Food companies recalled products in relation to some of the outbreaks. In the case of the Salmonella outbreak traced to kratom products, multiple companies recalled teas, powders, dried and capsulized forms of the plant. The FDA used its authority to mandate a recall when one kratom company refused to pull its product.

Here are the outbreaks — separated by pathogen — on the CDC’s 2018 “List of Selected Outbreak Investigations.” Individual outbreak stories from 2018 and previous years, including announcements and updates, are available on the Food Safety News website by clicking on the “Outbreaks” button on the navigation bar.

E. Coli outbreaks

Romaine lettuce – E. coli O157:H7
Announced by the CDC on April 10, this 36-state outbreak was declared over June 28. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 88 years old.

  • 210 people were confirmed infected
  • 96 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 27 people developed HUS, a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • 5 people died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from March 13 through June 6

Investigators identified romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing area as a common denominator among outbreak victims, but by the time the public was warned to avoid romaine from that area, growers were virtually finished with the season’s harvest. Consequently, no companies recalled any product in relation to the outbreak. In June the FDA and CDC announced the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 had been found in water from an open irrigation canal that runs through the produce fields and past a cattle feed lot that can handle up to 100,000 head at one time. 

Romaine lettuce – E. coli O157:H7
Announced Nov. 20, this 15-state outbreak is ongoing in the United States, according to the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 18. The outbreak crossed international lines, with the Canadian officials reporting patients in five provinces with infections from the outbreak strain of E. coli. Investigations in both countries showed romaine lettuce from the Central Coast region of California as the common denominator among patients. 

The outbreak strain for this outbreak is different from the one that caused the outbreak in the spring. However, it matches the outbreak strain of a U.S./Canada outbreak in November and December 2017.

In the ongoing U.S. outbreak, people in 15 states had been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain as of the CDC’s most recent update on Dec. 18. They range in age from 1 to 84 years old.

  • 59 people have been confirmed infected
  • 23 people have been admitted to hospitals
  • 2 people have developed HUS
  • No deaths have been confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Oct. 5 through Nov. 16

Canadian officials declared the outbreak in their country was over as of Dec. 24. Canadian numbers — 29 people infected; 10 hospitalized; 2 developed HUS; no deaths. Patients’ ages ranged from 2 to 93 years old. Illness onset dates reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada ranged from mid-October to mid-November.

In response to this outbreak, many growers and other entities in the supply chain voluntarily recalled romaine and stopped serving it effective Nov. 20, at the request of the FDA. Harvest has since shifted to the Yuma area and the voluntary moratorium on shipping romaine has been replaced with a voluntary labeling program that reveals the harvest date and region.

Investigators identified the outbreak strain of E. coli behind the current outbreak in California in sediment of an irrigation pond at Adam Brothers Farms Inc. in Santa Barbara County. FDA investigators have said other growers and distributors have not been ruled out as possible sources of contaminated romaine in this outbreak. By the time the E. coli was found on the Adams property, romaine harvest in the region had ended, so no romaine was recalled.

Ground beef – E. coli O26
The announcement of this four-state outbreak and related recalls didn’t come until weeks after the last confirmed victim became sick. The CDC declared the outbreak over as of Sept. 20. Cargill Meat Solutions of Fort Morgan, CO., recalled more than 65 tons of product.

  • 18 people were confirmed infected
  • 6 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person developed HUS
  • 1 person died 
  • Illness onset dates ranged from July 5 through July 25
Listeria outbreaks

Deli Ham
Announced Oct. 4, this two-state outbreak was declared over as of Dec. 18. Patients ages ranged from 70 to 81 years old.

  • 4 people were confirmed infected
  • 4 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates were not reported. Lab specimens were collected from patients between July 8, 2017, through Aug. 11, 2018.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that deli ham products from Johnston County Hams Inc. in Smithfield, NC, was contaminated with the same DNA fingerprint as was isolated from the outbreak patients. The contamination in the ham was discovered during routine inspections by federal regulatory officials who collected samples of deli ham at the production facility in 2016 and in early 2018. 

On Oct. 3, Johnston County Hams Inc. recalled ready-to-eat deli ham products that were produced between April 3, 2017, and Oct. 2, 2018

Pork products
Announced Nov. 21, this four-state outbreak has not yet been declared over. Patients ranged in age from 35 to 84 years old. It can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria monocytogenes for symptoms of infection to develop. Once diagnosed, it can take another two to 10 weeks for confirmed test results to be added to the CDC’s case count.

  • 4 people were confirmed infected
  • 4 people were admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths have been confirmed 
  • Illness onset dates were not reported. Lab specimens were collected from patients between July 1, 2017, and Oct. 24, 2018.

A day before the outbreak announcement from the CDC, a company called 165368 C. Corp. and doing business as Long Phung Food Products recalled “Vietnamese Style” pork products made from May 21 through Nov. 16 this year. 

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported it received notification of a cluster of listeriosis patients on Oct. 22 and began working with the CDC to determine the source of the pathogen. On Nov. 19, whole genome sequencing of investigative samples collected from Long Phung Foods Establishment M13561 showed a match with the samples from ill people.

Cyclospora outbreaks

This year marked the first time the Cyclospora parasite was found in fresh produce grown in the United States.

Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable-dip trays
Announced June 15, this four-state outbreak was declared over Sept. 5. Patients ranged in age from 13 to 79 years old.

  • 250 people confirmed infected
  • 8 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from May 14 through June 20

Epidemiologic evidence showed pre-packaged Fresh Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip were the likely vehicle of this outbreak. On June 15, Del Monte Fresh Produce recalled packaged vegetable trays of pre-cut fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots and dill dip. It was not possible to determine if an individual component of the vegetable trays was the likely vehicle of infection, according to the CDC. 

Fresh Express salad mix sold by McDonald’s
Announced July 13, CDC and FDA officials reported this 16-state outbreak was not associated with the Cyclospora parasite infection outbreak linked to the Del Monte vegetable-dip trays. The CDC declared this outbreak over on Sept. 12. Patients ranged in age from 14 to 91 years old.

  • 511 people confirmed sick
  • 24 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from May 20 through July 23

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that salads purchased from McDonald’s restaurants were linked to this outbreak. On July 13 McDonald’s voluntarily stopped selling salads at more than 3,000 locations in 14 states.

On July 26, the FDA completed final analysis of an unused package of romaine lettuce and carrot mix distributed to McDonald’s by the Fresh Express. The analysis confirmed the presence of Cyclospora in that sample. The FDA investigation reviewed distribution and supplier information for romaine and carrots but did not identify a single source or point of contamination.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus

Imported crab meat
Announced July 13, this outbreak was declared over as of Sept. 27. Patients ranged in age from 26 to 78 years old.

  • 26 people confirmed infected
  • 9 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from April 1 through July 19

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that crab meat labeled as fresh or precooked and imported from Venezuela was making people sick. State and local health officials collected information from restaurants and grocery stores where ill people reported buying fresh crab meat. The FDA and regulatory officials in Maryland traced back the source of the crab meat and identified multiple Venezuelan suppliers. 

As a result of the outbreak investigation, FDA increased testing of fresh crab meat from Venezuela. FDA testing did not find Vibrio parahaemolyticus in any samples tested, but did find Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. That contaminated crab meat was not allowed to be sold in the United States.

Salmonella outbreaks

Frozen shredded coconut
Announced Jan. 16, this nine-state outbreak was declared over as of Feb. 15. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 82 years old.

  • 27 people confirmed infected
  • 6 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 9, 2017, through Nov. 4, 2017

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that Coconut Tree brand frozen shredded coconut, distributed by Evershing International Trading Co., was the likely source of this outbreak. On Jan. 3, 2018, Evershing International Trading recalled all 16-ounce Coconut Tree Brand Frozen Shredded Coconut after Salmonella was identified in the product by officials in Massachusetts.

Raw, fresh sprouts at Jimmy John’s
Announced Jan. 19, this three-state outbreak was declared over as of Feb. 28. Patients ranged in age from 26 to 56 years old.

  • 10 people confirmed infected
  • No people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Dec. 20, 2017 through Jan. 28, 2018

Epidemiologic evidence indicates that raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants were the most likely source of this outbreak. Eight of the 10 patients reported eating at multiple Jimmy John’s restaurant locations. Of these eight people, all eight reported eating raw sprouts on a sandwich from Jimmy John’s in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Various kratom products
Announced Feb. 20, this 41-state outbreak was declared over as of May 24, but both CDC and FDA are continuing to investigate other illnesses and product contamination. Patients in this outbreak ranged in age from less than 1 to 75 years old.

  • 199 people confirmed with infections
  • 50 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 11, 2017, through May 8, 2018 

This outbreak was detected when a cluster of people infected with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:- was identified by CDC’s PulseNet. During the investigation, health and regulatory officials in several states and the FDA collected various leftover and unopened kratom products to test for Salmonella contamination. Multiple product recalls have been initiated by several different companies. The FDA website has a list of contaminated kratom products, which were from several retail locations and online retailers. A list of the recalled kratom products is also available on the FDA website.

Chicken salad from Triple T Specialty Meats and sold by Fareway stores
Announced Feb. 22, the CDC declared this eight-state outbreak over on April 6. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 89 years old.

  • 265 people confirmed infected
  • 94 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 8 through March 20

Public health officials in Iowa first detected this outbreak and linked the illnesses to chicken salad sold at Fareway grocery stores. The CDC searched the PulseNet database and identified illnesses in other states. Fareway stopped selling chicken salad in all of its stores on Feb. 9 after the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals contacted the company about the illnesses. 

Investigators in Iowa collected chicken salad from two Fareway grocery store locations in the state for laboratory testing. An outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium was identified in both samples. On Feb. 21 Triple T Specialty Meats Inc., which produced the chicken salad, recalled all of the chicken salad it produced from Jan. 2 through Feb. 7. 

Dried coconut
Announced March 21, the CDC declared this outbreak involving eight states and Washington D.C. over as of May 18. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 73 years old.

  • 14 people confirmed infected
  • 3 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 22, 2017, through to Feb. 26, 2018.

Eight of 10 outbreak victims reported eating dried coconut before becoming sick. Four of them reported buying it from Natural Grocers stores. Federal and state investigators collected and tested leftover dried coconut from ill people’s homes, as well as dried coconut from Natural Grocers store locations where ill people shopped and from the Natural Grocers’ Distribution Center. Lab tests showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in an unopened sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic and in an opened, leftover sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic collected from an ill person’s home. The FDA also found the outbreak strain in samples of International Harvest Brand Organic Go Smile! Dried Coconut Raw and Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

On March 16, International Harvest Inc. recalled bags of Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut and bulk packages of Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

Eggs from Rose Acre Farms
Announced April 16, this 10-state outbreak was declared over as of June 14. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 90 years old.

  • 45 people confirmed infected
  • 11 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Nov. 16, 2017, through May 13, 2018

More than half of the patients interviewed reported eating dishes made with shell eggs in restaurants before becoming sick. Outbreak investigators traced the source of some of the shell eggs supplied to these restaurant locations to Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County, NC, farm. FDA investigators inspected the farm and collected samples. Laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup in environmental samples taken at the farm. On April 13 Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled more than 206 million shell eggs. 

Pre-cut melon distributed by Caito Foods
Announced June 8, this nine-state outbreak was declared over as of July 26. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 97 years old.

  • 77 people confirmed infected
  • 36 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from April 30 through July 2

Information collected from stores where ill people shopped indicated that Caito Foods LLC supplied pre-cut melon to the stores. On June 8 Caito Foods, LLC recalled fresh-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fresh-cut fruit medley products containing one or more of those melons that were produced at the Caito Foods facility in Indianapolis.

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal
Announced June 14, the CDC reported on Sept. 26 that it was closing its investigation into this 36-state outbreak. The agency stopped short, however, of saying the outbreak is over, mainly because of the long shelf life of the implicated breakfast cereal, which has best-by dates through June 14, 2019.

  • 135 people confirmed infected
  • 34 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from March 3 through Aug. 29

Three out of every four outbreak patients interviewed reported eating Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal before becoming sick. Investigators collected unopened packages of the cereal from retailers and from leftover cereal from patients’ homes. Tests showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella in unopened and leftover cereal. On June 14 the Kellogg Co. initiated an international recall of all Honey Smacks cereal that were on the market within the cereal’s one-year shelf-life.

Hy-Vee Spring Pasta Salad
Announced July 18, this 10-state outbreak was declared over as of Sept. 5. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 89 years old.

  • 101 people confirmed infected
  • 25 people admitted to hospitals
  • No confirmed deaths
  • Illness onset dates ranged from June 21 through Aug. 7

Epidemiologic evidence indicated that Spring Pasta Salad purchased at Hy-Vee grocery stores was a likely source of this outbreak. In interviews, 76 percent of patients reported eating Spring Pasta Salad from Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The ill people in North Dakota, Oregon, and Tennessee traveled to states where Hy-Vee grocery stores are located. On July 16 Hy-Vee Inc. removed Spring Pasta Salad products from all of its stores. The next day Hy-Vee formally recalled its Spring Pasta Salad.

Raw turkey products
Announced July 19, this 38-state outbreak is ongoing. As of the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 21, the patients range in age from 1 to 99 years old.

  • 216 people confirmed infected
  • 84 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person has died
  • Illness onset dates range from Nov. 20, 2017, through Dec. 6, 2018

Ill people reported buying many different brands of raw turkey products from multiple stores. Also, three of the 108 patients interviewed as of Dec. 21 became sick after pets in their home ate raw ground turkey pet food. Four of the 108 ill people interviewed worked in a facility that raises or processes turkeys, or lived with someone who did.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella is resistant to multiple antibiotics, including ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, kanamycin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin and fosfomycin.

Extensive testing by state and federal officials across the country has revealed Salmonella in raw turkey, in live turkeys, at slaughtering facilities and at processing plants. Federal officials say the pathogen is widespread in the industry and the ongoing outbreak likely involves multiple products from multiple sources.

However, in recent weeks two Jennie-O Turkey Store locations recalled raw ground turkey in relation to the outbreak. Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC in Barron, WI recalled 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey products and Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC in Faribault, MN recalled 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products.

Empire Kosher chicken
Announced Aug. 29, the CDC declared this six-state outbreak over as of Dec. 7. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 76 years old.

  • 25 people confirmed sick
  • 11 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 25, 2017, through Aug. 13, 2018 

In interviews, ill people reported eating kosher chicken, and when asked about the specific brand eaten, several people reported Empire Kosher brand. The outbreak strain was also identified in samples of raw chicken collected from two facilities, including one facility that processes Empire Kosher brand chicken. The samples, collected by USDA-FSIS at the slaughter and processing establishment, were part of USDA-FSIS’ routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella strain from the samples matched the Salmonella strain from ill people.

Eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms
Announced Sept. 10, this 11-state outbreak was declared over as of Oct. 25. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 94 years old.

  • 44 people confirmed infected
  • 12 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from May 17 through Aug. 26

Of the patients interviewed by epidemiologists, 81 percent said they ate restaurant dishes made with eggs before becoming ill. The restaurants reported using shell eggs in the dishes eaten by ill people. FDA and state investigators traced the shell eggs to Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman, AL.

Laboratory testing found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in environmental samples from Gravel Ridge Farms. Officials in Alabama also detected the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs. Whole genome sequencing showed the Salmonella bacteria from the environmental samples and from Gravel Ridge Farms eggs matched the Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people. On Sept. 8 Gravel Ridge Farms recalled cage-free large eggs with use by dates of July 25 through Oct. 3.

Ground beef from JBS
Announced Oct. 4, this 28-state outbreak is ongoing, as of the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 12. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 99 years old.

  • 333 people confirmed infected
  • 91 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Aug. 5 through Nov. 9

The USDA-FSIS and state partners traced the source of the ground beef eaten by ill people in this outbreak to JBS Tolleson Inc. On Oct. 4, the company recalled approximately 6.5 million pounds of beef in relation to this outbreak. JBS recalled an additional 5.2 million pounds of beef on Dec. 4.

Officials in Arizona collected an unopened package of ground beef from an ill person’s home as part of the outbreak investigation. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport was identified in the ground beef. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella identified in the ground beef matched the Salmonella in samples from ill people. The ground beef was one of the products recalled by JBS on Oct. 4.

Raw chicken products
Announced Oct. 17, this 29-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 105 years old.

  • 92 people confirmed infected
  • 21 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Jan. 19 through Sept. 9

Evidence collected as of Oct. 17 shows many types of raw chicken products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Infantis and are making people sick, according to the CDC. In interviews, ill people report eating different types and brands of chicken products purchased from many different locations.

The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products from 58 slaughter and/or processing establishments, and from live chickens. Antibiotic resistance testing shows that the outbreak strain is resistant to multiple antibiotics. 

Samples were collected at slaughter and processing establishments as part of FSIS’s routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella from those samples matches the Salmonella from ill people.

Duncan Hines cake mix
Announced Nov. 7, this three-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from 26 to 72 years old.

  • 5 people confirmed infected
  • No patients admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from June 13 through Sept. 17

Health officials in Oregon identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni in a box of Duncan Hines “Classic White Cake Mix” as part of an unrelated investigation. The CDC compared the pathogen found in Oregon with Salmonella strains in the PulseNet database and found it matched samples collected from patients in three states. 

On Nov. 7 ConAgra Brands recalled Duncan Hines cake mix in Classic White, Classic Yellow Cake, Classic Butter Golden Cake, and Confetti Cake flavors, with various “best if used by” dates ranging from March 7 to 13, 2019.

Tahini from Achdut Ltd.
Announced Nov. 28, this three-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from 17 to 52 years old.

  • 5 people confirmed infected
  • No patients admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from June 16 through Oct. 18

In interviews, all of the patients reported eating tahini in the days before becoming sick. The FDA had identified Salmonella Concord in a sample of tahini collected at the point of import. The tahini was Baron’s brand manufactured by Achdut Ltd. Whole genome sequencing results showed that the Salmonella strain identified in imported tahini matches the Salmonella strain identified in ill people. On Nov. 27 Achdut Ltd. recalled a variety of tahini products in relation to the outbreak. The FDA website has a list of the tahini products that were recalled.

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Editor’s note: Today Food Safety News takes a look back at the most significant recalls in the United States in 2018. As in past years, our year-end coverage is not merely a list of individual stories by individual writers. Generally, significant events are the other way around. Multiple stories by multiple writers are usually involved in our recall coverage, especially when illnesses or multiple companies are involved. It takes a newsroom — not solo work — to give readers the information they have come to expect from us.


Some of the biggest food recall news of 2018 didn’t come from a food producer or distributor. And, it didn’t force consumers to check their cupboards or refrigerators for potentially poisonous food. It came from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in September when he announced the agency would begin publicly disclosing retail locations that may have sold or distributed recalled food — in some circumstances.

The shift away from protecting “confidential corporate information” and toward public safety is so significant it made our Top 10 list of food safety news stories for 2018.

Another headline out of the Food and Drug Administration’s 2018 recall file was “the agency’s first-ever mandatory recall order,” Gottlieb said in a Late November statement about the FDA’s investigation of contamination of kratom products and dozens of related illnesses. The kratom situation, which included multiple recalls and a Salmonella outbreak, also earned a spot on the Food Safety News Top 10 list for the year.

Click image for enlarged view.

Other big recall news in the “Year of the Dog” involved millions of eggs, millions of pounds of meat and poultry, an unrevealed volume of other foods under the jurisdiction of FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Here, in no particular order, are some of the most noteworthy recalls initiated in 2018.

Romaine lettuce
It wasn’t an official recall, but many growers and others in the romaine supply chain launched a voluntary “market withdrawal” of all forms and brands of the popular leafy green two days before Thanksgiving. The action was at the request of the FDA, which announced the third E. coli outbreak in 12 months on Nov. 20. Hundreds of people in the United States and Canada fell ill in the three outbreaks. At least five people died.  

Outbreak investigators found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 involved in the fall outbreak in the sediment of an irrigation pond on Adam Brothers Farm in Santa Maria, CA. The romaine harvest was well over by December when the contamination was confirmed, but in mid-December, the family-owned farm recalled red and green leaf lettuces and cauliflower in relation to the contaminated pond.

JBS beef
In October, JBS Tolleson Inc., a beef producer in Arizona that is part of the multi-national Brazilian company JBS S.A., recalled 6.5 million pounds of ground beef because of links to a Salmonella outbreak. The company expanded the recall in December to a total of more than 12 million pounds. As of Dec. 12, there were 333 people with confirmed Salmonella Newport infections across 28 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Jennie-O ground turkey
Although the CDC first announced a Salmonella outbreak traced to raw turkey in July, there weren’t any related turkey recalls until Nov. 15 when Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Barron, WI, recalled more than 91,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products. On Dec. 21 a Jennie-O Store Sales location in Faribault, MN, recalled more than 164,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the CDC report the outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys. A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak. As of Dec. 21, the CDC was reporting 216 people with confirmed Salmonella infections, including one death, across 38 states. 

Shell eggs
On April 13, 2018, Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled more than 206 million shell eggs because they were implicated in a Salmonella outbreak bacteria. Three days later Cal-Maine Foods Inc. voluntarily recalled more than 280,000 eggs it had purchased from Rose Acre Farms. The CDC reported 45 people were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella across 10 states.

In September, Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman County, AL, recalled eggs because of Salmonella. Forty-four people across 11 states were infected. The FDA put its new policy to work, listing some retailers that carried the Gravel Ridge Farms eggs. 

McCain Foods USA Inc.
At least a half-dozen companies recalled more than 755 tons of food products because they contained ingredients from a McCain Foods production facility in Colton, CA. The factory produces fire roasted caramelized or sauteed frozen fruit and vegetable products. 

In a news release, McCain said it “identified a potential health risk” to its product line at Colton. The company was not exact about its problem at Colton when it originated, the volume of food involved, or where it was distributed.

The products were sold in Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart, Kroger and Target stores across the country. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported more than a dozen food manufacturers in the U.S. received vegetables from McCain that were potentially contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

Fresh-cut melon
When Walmart and Kroger pulled fresh-cut melon products from their shelves because they were implicated in a Salmonella outbreak, it took supplier Caito Foods 48 hours to initiate a recall of the fresh fruit. The volume of precut fruit products involved was not disclosed.

Caito distributed the fresh-cut products, packaged with generic labels, to Costco, JayC, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon. The CDC reported 77 people were confirmed ill in the related outbreak.

Del Monte fresh vegetable trays
An outbreak of infections from the Cyclospora parasite spurred Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. to recall vegetable trays containing fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots, and dill dip in mid-June. Neither the company nor the FDA reported how many pounds were recalled.

Del Monte distributed the vegetable-dip trays to retailers including Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, Food Max Supermarket and Peapod. The CDC reported 250 people in four states were confirmed with the parasitic infections.

McDonald’s salads
Also because of Cyclospora parasite infections, McDonald’s pulled an undisclosed number of salads from restaurants in 14 states in July. Ingredients for the salads were distributed by Caito Foods, but were produced by Fresh Express.

Caito Foods officials told the FDA that Fresh Express had notified it of a product recall involving romaine that could be contaminated with the parasites. FDA issued a public alert after Cyclospora was confirmed in Fresh Express product, but the romaine-carrot mix was past its shelf life at that point. When the outbreak was declared over, there had been 511 people across 16 states confirmed with Cyclospora infections.

Retailers including Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Walgreens removed salads and wraps from their shelves because of the situation.

Honey Smacks
In June the Kellogg Co. issued an international recall of its Honey Smacks cereal in relation to a multistate Salmonella outbreak. The massive recall is still active. However, the CDC declared the outbreak over in late September when the confirmed patient count was 135.

Public health officials are concerned that consumers could still have unopened boxes of the recalled cereal in their homes because of the product’s long shelf life. All Honey Smacks cereal, regardless of size, with best-by dates through June 14, 2019, is subject to the recall. 

Duncan Hines cake mix
In November Conagra Foods recalled four flavors of Duncan Hines brand cake mix after federal investigators told them Oregon’s public health department found Salmonella in a box of Duncan Hines cake mix. The strain matched that of patients in a multistate Salmonella outbreak.

A spokesperson with the Food and Drug Administration told Food Safety News the manufacturing plant where the recalled cake mix was produced is in the United States. The FDA’s outbreak investigation announcement Nov. 5 reported the agency was inspecting the manufacturing plant, but did not indicate where the plant is located.

Goldfish crackers, Hungry Man dinners, Ritz crackers
Several varieties of “the snack that smiles back” were voluntarily recalled by Pepperidge Farm during the summer after the whey powder used in a seasoning ingredient was found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

In addition to the Goldfish crackers from Pepperidge Farm, several other products had to be recalled, including Hungry Man frozen dinners, Ritz brand crackers in the U.S. and Canada, and several brands of snack cakes.

Both the FDA and the FSIS reported the manufacturer of the whey powder was Associated Milk Producers Inc., but the company did not issue a public recall. Officials with Minnesota-based AMPI posted a news release in July saying none of the implicated whey powder was sold directly to consumers. 

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