A strain of salmonella, Salmonella Heidelberg, has sickened at least 77 people in 26 states and killed one in California. The outbreak has been linked to ground turkey produced at an Arkansas plant, and Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation has announced a recall of about 36 million pounds of the meat. The meat is sold under the Honeysuckle brand and bear the establishment number P-963 inside the USDA inspection mark. USDA has a list of affected products on its website.
This strain of salmonella is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. As William Neuman notes in the New York Times, people with mild cases of salmonella infection aren't usually prescribed antibiotics, but the drugs can be used to treat blood poisoning in severe cases and to guard against complications in immuno-compromised patients.
The antibiotic resistance in this strain of salmonella isn't a bad sign just for the salmonella patients who need antibiotic therapy. It's also another worrisome data point in the overall picture of decreased effectiveness in the drugs on which we rely. This week also brought a new paper, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, tracing the spread of multidrug-resistant Salmonella enterica Serotype Kentucky ST198, which "demonstrates the potential for global spread of resistant Salmonella infection." As usual, Maryn McKenna at Superbug provides a useful explanation of the article's findings and implications, which you should read.
An appropriate long-term response to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria would include an end to routine dosing of livestock with antibiotics. In the meantime, remember to wash your hands and food preparation surfaces thoroughly, especially if you've been handling raw poultry or other meat.
I just got a phone call from Kroger, one of my local grocery stores indicating that I may have purchased some of this turkey and should return it with receipt to the store for a full refund. (If only I hadn't eaten it all already).
I have to assume the "Kroger Plus card" I use to save a few bucks on toothpaste and other instore specials kept track of who bought what products, and they were able to alert me that I had purchased some potentially contaminated turkey.
I'm pretty happy that I cooked what I ate thoroughly, as I always do, and have so far avoided illness, but it is pretty neat that my little savings card can be used to help customers avoid illness. Finally I see the value in having one and having it attached to my contact information.
Remember to wash your hands, people. And wear leather gloves when you do yardwork. And cook your food. France has about a 90% infection rate of Toxoplasmosis because people don't cook their food thoroughly all the time. Steak tartare may be cute, but you know what isn't cute? A brain infection. Denatured protiens are your friends, others, not so much.
For those of you who are confident in your ability to operate a kitchen in a safe and sanitary manner, now is a GREAT time to buy up a ton of ground turkey and turn it into a thoroughly-cooked Bolognese ragu. Simmer for 4-6 hours, and you'll have no worries about the Salmonella. Just wash the holy hell out of your hands every time you touch the raw product, and dry with paper towels so you don't cross-contaminate your kitchen rags.