Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been reported in 26 states coast to coast.
Cargill said Wednesday that it is recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company's Springdale, Ark., plant from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2 due to possible contamination from the strain of salmonella linked to the illnesses.
Company officials said that all ground turkey production has been suspended at the plant until the company is able to determine the source of the outbreak.
"Given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace," said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill's turkey processing business.
The Minnesota-based company said it was initiating the recall after its own internal investigation, an Agriculture Department investigation and information about the illnesses released by the CDC this week.
All of the packages recalled include the code "Est. P-963" on the label, according to Cargill. The packages were labeled with many different brands, including Cargill's Honeysuckle White.
The CDC said this week that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed contamination with the same strain of salmonella, though those samples had not been specifically linked to the illnesses. The CDC said preliminary information showed that three of those samples were linked to the same production establishment, but it did not name that plant.
A chart on the CDC's website shows cases have occurred every month since early March, with spikes in May and early June. The latest reported cases were in mid-July, although the CDC said some recent cases may not have been reported yet.
The CDC said the strain is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, which can make treatment more difficult. The agency said 38 percent of those sickened were hospitalized.
The states with the highest number sickened were Michigan and Ohio, 10 illnesses each, while nine illnesses were reported in Texas. Illinois had seven, California six and Pennsylvania five.
The remaining states have between one and three reported illnesses linked to the outbreak, according to the CDC: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans each year get sick from food poisoning, including about 3,000 who die. Salmonella causes most of these cases and federal health officials say they've made virtually no progress against it.
Government officials say that even contaminated ground turkey is safe to eat if it is cooked to 165 degrees. But it's also important that raw meat be handled properly before it is cooked and that people wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling the meat. Turkey and other meats should also be properly refrigerated or frozen and leftovers heated.
The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight hours to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It can be life-threatening to some with weakened immune systems.
Cargill executive Willardsen said, "Public health and the safety of consumers cannot be compromised."
"It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products," he said, "and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry."
CDC info on salmonella in ground turkey: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg/080111/index.html
Find Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.
Recalled Cargill Ground Turkey Products
August 3, 2011
The products involved are Ground Turkey. All packages include Est. P-963 on the label. Products are listed below:
Ground Turkey Chubs - Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
10 lbs. Chubs of Honeysuckle White Fresh Natural Lean Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings
10 lbs. Chubs of Unbranded Ground Turkey w/ Natural Flavoring 2 Pack
80 oz. (5 lbs.) chubs of Riverside Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring
10 lb. Chub of Natural Lean Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings
16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Fresh Lean HEB Ground Turkey 93/7
16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Fresh HEB Ground Turkey 85/15
16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Fresh Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring
4-1 Pound Packages of Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring Value Pack
16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Fresh Ground Turkey
48 oz. (3 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Fresh Ground Turkey
85% Ground Turkey - Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
19.2 oz. (1.2 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
19.2 oz. (1.2 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey Colored with Paprika
19.2 oz. (1 lb. 3.2 oz.) trays of Kroger Ground Turkey Fresh 85/15
48.0 oz. (3 lb.) trays of Kroger Ground Turkey Fresh 85/15
20 oz. (1.25 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
48.0 oz. (3 lbs.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey Family Pack
16 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
19.2 oz. (1.2 lbs.) trays of Honeysuckle White Seasoned Italian Style Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings
20 oz. (1 lb. 4 oz.) trays of Safeway Fresh Ground Turkey with Natural Flavorings * 15% Fat
(NOTE: Sold in Texas only at Randall's and Tom Thumb, Use or Freeze by 03/12/11 through 05/05/11)
93% Ground Turkey - Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
19.2 oz. (1.20 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey
48 oz. (3.0 lbs.) trays of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey Family Pack
19.2 oz. (1.2 lb.) trays of Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey 93/07
19.2 oz. (1.2 lbs.) trays of Giant Eagle Ground Turkey Fresh & Premium Lean
19.2 oz. (1 lb 3.2 oz.) trays of Kroger Ground Turkey Fresh Lean 93/7
20 oz. (1.25 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey
16.0 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey Patties
Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
16 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Kroger Ground Seasoned Turkey Patties Fresh 85/15
Use or Freeze by Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/23/11
16.0 oz. (1 lb.) trays of Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers with Natural Flavoring
NOTE: ONLY THE FOLLOWING USE OR FREEZE BY DATES ARE AFFECTED: 07/09/11, 07/10/11, 07/11/11, 07/15/11, 07/16/11, 07/21/11, 07/22/11, 07/24/11, 08/01/11 AND 08/04/11
Frozen Ground Turkey - Production Dates of 2/20/11 through 8/2/11
16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring
16 oz. (1 lb.) chubs of Spartan Ground Turkey
48 oz. (3 lb.) chubs of Honeysuckle White 85/15 Ground Turkey
40 lb. Bulk Packed Ground Turkey with Natural Flavoring For Food Service Use Only