While eating raw turkey is obviously a bad idea, it’s important to be careful when simply handling an uncooked bird. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the mishandling of turkey might be the cause of the new widespread Salmonella outbreak that has already reached more than half of the 50 states.
On Thursday, the CDC announced an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened at least 90 people across 26 states. Among the illnesses reported in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, at least 40 people have been hospitalized.
“The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry,” the CDC said in a statement. Given the potentially ubiquitous nature of this outbreak, the CDC says its working with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to reach out to representatives from the turkey industry and implement plans to reduce contamination.
Salmonella can spread quickly across a kitchen and thus a person doesn’t have to ingest uncooked meat to still contract the virus. Among the 61 infected people interviewed by the CDC, 37 reported preparing turkey products that were purchased raw, ranging from whole turkeys to ground meat. Two individuals reported falling ill after their dogs and cats ate pet food containing raw turkey.
And speaking of pets, humans aren’t the only ones the CDC cares about during this outbreak. The investigation notice restated the agency’s stance on feeding pets a raw diet, reminding animal lovers that “germs like Salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick.”
The CDC has yet to determine whether the outbreak was caused by a single source or by multiple providers of raw turkey products. Until the agency can identify its source, it is reminding consumers to “wash their hands thoroughly after handling any raw meat and poultry products, cook these products to the safe recommended temperature, and use a food thermometer.”