Salmonella Outbreak! How to Know If Your Turkey is Safe

Conde Nast Digital Studio
Conde Nast Digital Studio

Amy Paturel, SELF magazine

Uh oh ... turkey trouble!

The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday that Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to more than 70 salmonella illnesses in 26 states. Yikes!

What's worse, the particular strain of salmonella found in these birds (Salmonella Heidelberg) is resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics and is often difficult to treat. So far, California, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania have been among the states hit the hardest by the outbreak.

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In fact, this marks the second time in recent months that turkey has been tied to a salmonella contamination. In April, 12 people fell ill amid a salmonella outbreak that prompted the recall of nearly 55,000 pounds of Jennie-O turkey burgers.

But don't freak out yet: Government officials say that even contaminated ground turkey is safe to eat if it is handled properly and cooked to 165 degrees.

Want to protect yourself from tummy trauma, fever, diarrhea and even death? We consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for advice. Their tips:

-- Clean up! Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry, including frozen and fresh ground turkey. Then, disinfect the surfaces using a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.

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-- Get cooking. Ground turkey and ground turkey dishes should always be cooked to 165 degrees internal temperature; leftovers also should be reheated to 165 degrees. And don't rely on the color of cooked turkey burgers to ensure you're in the clear. Only a food thermometer can accurately determine a bird's internal temperature. (Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees -- and smoked turkey is always pink.)

-- Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked meats separate from produce, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods. And wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. In fact, it's a good idea to wash your hands before handling food and between handling different food items.

--Chill out. Refrigerate raw and cooked meat and poultry within 2 hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90 degrees). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking. And make sure your fridge is set to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees or below.

--Get help. If you develop severe diarrhea, fever, cramps or other symptoms within 72 hours of eating potentially contaminated turkey, get to the doctor stat -- especially if your immune system is weakened from pregnancy or a chronic illness. Chances are, a course of antibiotics will help you feel better fast.

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