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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating a nationwide raw turkey Salmonella outbreak for months. With Thanksgiving a week away, here are some facts and figures on the ongoing situation that is nearing its one-year anniversary:
Raw turkey Salmonella outbreak: statistics
The CDC’s most recent update on the outbreak, posted Nov. 8, shows the following information:
- By the numbers: 164 people sickened, 63 hospitalized, and one death (in California) in 35 states.
- Illnesses started on dates from Nov. 20, 2017, to October 20, 2018.
- People who have been sickened range in age from less than 1 year old to 91, with a median age of 45.
- Fifty-six percent of those sickened are female.
Raw turkey Salmonella outbreak: no one source
A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or live turkeys has not been identified as the outbreak source. Indeed, the CDC says that epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Reading.
In interviews, people who have been sickened report eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations. Additionally, three ill people live in households where contaminated raw turkey pet food was fed to pets.
Salmonella Reading has been found in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys. The CDC, however, is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products, or that retailers stop selling raw turkey products.
Raw turkey Salmonella outbreak: safety tips
Raw turkey should always be handled carefully and cooked thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. This outbreak is a reminder that raw turkey products can have bacteria that spread around food-preparation areas and make people sick.
The CDC is advising consumers to follow the following steps to help prevent Salmonella infection from raw turkey:
- Wash your hands. Salmonella bacteria can spread from one person to another. Wash hands before and after preparing or eating any type of food, after contact with animals, and after using the restroom or changing diapers.
- Cook raw turkey thoroughly to kill bacteria. Turkey breasts, whole turkeys, and ground poultry – including turkey burgers, turkey casseroles, and turkey sausage – should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill Salmonella bacteria. Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature, and place it in the thickest part of the food.
- Don’t spread germs from raw turkey around areas used in food preparation. Washing raw turkey – or any raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal – before cooking is not recommended. Germs in the meat’s juices can spread to other areas and foods. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they come in contact with raw turkey. Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and other raw meats.
- Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Never thaw frozen turkey by leaving it on a counter.
- The CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets. Germs like Salmonella in raw pet food can make animals sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food, or by taking care of your pet.
Raw turkey Salmonella outbreak: turkey facts
According to the University of Illinois:
- In 2011, 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States.
- In 2012, the average American ate 16 pounds of turkey.
- Turkey consumption has increased 104 percent since 1970.
- Each Thanksgiving, 46 million turkeys are eaten. Eighty-eight percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation said they eat turkey on Thanksgiving.
- Turkey is also popular on other holidays: 22 million turkeys are consumed on Christmas, and 19 million on Easter.
- In 1970, 50 percent of all turkey eaten was during the holidays. Today, only 29 percent of all turkey eaten is during the holidays.