Yesterday, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey. It’s the second largest meat recall in our country’s history, falling behind a 143 million pound beef recall in 2008.

So far there have been 76 illnesses reported in 26 states, including one death, due to consumption of ground turkey that has been contaminated with Salmonella heidelberg. This particular strain of Salmonella is resistant to many of the common antibiotics.

The New York Times is reporting that the factory believed to have produced the tainted meat has been shut down. The plant is in Springdale, Ark., and is one of four plants that produce ground turkey for Cargill. The other three plants will remain in operation.

I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion in the upcoming weeks about food safety: Salmonella strains that are getting tougher to fight, the problems with factory farming, the responsibility of Cargill, and other issues that do need to be addressed. But right now, the important thing is to know how to protect your family from becoming seriously ill from tainted meat.

  • Some of the tainted ground turkey was sold under the brand Honeysuckle White. That’s only some of it, though. It doesn’t look as if Cargill has yet released all of the brand names that are associated with the recalled ground turkey. Other brands that get meat from Cargill may be tainted, too. If you have ground turkey in your refrigerator or freezer, and you are not 100 percent sure that it didn’t come from Cargill, dispose of it.
  • Not all supermarkets remove recalled products from their shelves in a timely manner. Don’t assume that ground turkey that is now on the shelves is safe. Supermarkets don’t keep these products out purposely, but it may be some time before all markets, especially smaller ones, get the right information.
  • If you’ve eaten ground turkey recently, keep an eye out for symptoms of food poisoning. Fever, stomach cramping, and diarrhea are the most common symptoms. If you’re experiencing these symptoms and have had ground turkey recently, contact your doctor. Keep a special eye out for the elderly, the very young, and people who have compromised immune symptoms.
  • If you are confident of the source of our ground turkey and you choose to eat it, make sure it is cooked to 165 degrees, and use a meat thermometer to be certain.
  • Avoid cross contamination of uncooked ground turkey (or any uncooked meat) with other foods. Utensils, cutting boards, dishes and hands that come in contact with uncooked meat should be washed thoroughly before coming in contact with other foods or objects.

Do you have any other advice to add for avoiding food poisoning? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Protect your family from food poisoning
Cargill has recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey. With such a massive recall, what do you need to know to keep from getting sick?