CALPIRG Calls on USDA to Move More Quickly Recalling Tainted Food

Media Contacts
Jon Fox

CALPIRG Education Fund

San Francisco, CA – Yesterday, mega-producer Cargill initiated the third largest food recall in American history, taking off shelves 36 million pounds of turkey products.  While signs of the Salmonella outbreak were detected in March, action was only taken this week to remove tainted turkey products from stores. The recall came after an outbreak of Salmonella that killed one and sickened 77 others, including six Californians.

“Consumers need real-time information to be able to protect themselves and their families,” warned Jon Fox, CALPIRG Education Fund Consumer Advocate. 

Four ground turkey samples purchased from retail locations between March 7 and June 27, 2011 yielded the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. Yet neither producers nor federal regulators warned the public about these results, releasing a public health alert for frozen or fresh ground turkey products only on July 29.  Consumers were not informed of either the tainted brand names or the locations of the stores where they were found.

“Sadly, the recall came too late for one Sacramento man whose death has been linked to the tainted Cargill turkey” said Jon Fox, adding that “Producers and regulators have to warn consumers as soon as the risks are known, and not wait until the sick fill up hospitals.”

The tainted Cargill turkey products were labeled mostly under the Honeysuckle White brand, but also include other brand names, such as Safeway, Kroger’s, Randall’s, Tom Thumb and Giant Eagle store brands. All of the recalled products can be traced to the Cargill Springdale, Arkansas plant, were packaged from December 20 through August 2 and are stamped with the code “Est. P-963.”

“This is just one of a series of Salmonella outbreaks originating from the Cargill Springdale plant,” noted Jon Fox, adding that “We trust food like Cargill to make sure our food is safe, and remove it from shelves before an outbreak happens. Unfortunately, that did not happen.”

The California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (CALPIRG) is a result-oriented public interest group that protects consumers, encourages a fair sustainable economy, and fosters responsive democratic governance.