Turkey Recall and Pet Food
Will the 36 million pounds of recalled ground turkey end up in pet food? We’ll probably never know for certain, however considering the pet food industry is big on recycling all sorts of waste it wouldn’t be a surprise if all the recalled meat goes directly into pet foods. Here are some interesting bits and pieces regarding our food inspection services in general and news on this turkey recall.
FoodSafetyNews reports that months have passed before federal authorities took action “after multi-drug resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to ground turkey were first reported in early March. So far 78 illnesses, including one death in California, have been linked to the outbreak. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert on Friday, July 29, urging consumers to use caution cooking and handling ground turkey, but it wasn’t until August 3 that Cargill announced the recall.”
And of course with serious human illness and death related to food comes lawsuits. But this time there is an interesting twist…
“The Seattle food safety law firm Marler Clark (associated with FoodSafetyNews.com) made an unusual offer Friday (8/5/11) to Cargill Inc., the company whose ground turkey has been linked to 77 illnesses and one death in a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg.
The proposal: If Cargill will immediately start testing its meat for antbiotic-resistant Salmonella strains — such as Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hadar and Salmonella Typhimurium — Marler Clark will delay suing the food giant on behalf of the more than 2 dozen victims who are now its clients.
“We still intend to ensure that our clients’ medical bills, wage loss and damages are fully covered,” said Marler Clark attorney Bill Marler, in a news release. “However, we’ve been at this long enough to where we’d like to see our efforts give peace of mind to both our clients and American consumers as a whole.”
The firm agreed to delay filing lawsuits against Cargill and instead “commit to working out private, amicable solutions” if the corporation, which has so far recalled 36 million pounds of turkey processed at its facility in Springdale, Arkansas, takes action toward a Salmonella testing program by Wednesday.”
(To learn more about the history of Salmonella testing in food, click here for a very interesting article written by attorney Bill Marler)
Food Safety Advocate Phyllis Entis – known as the Food Bug Lady – wrote a very interesting (and sad) explanation of how lacking the USDA’s inspection for Salmonella really is…
“We cannot even rely on USDA’s reported incidence levels of Salmonella in broiler and turkey carcasses, because the agency’s sampling method is badly flawed. One might almost conclude that the procedure was designed to underreport the true incidence of Salmonella in our raw poultry.
This is how USDA samples poultry carcasses for Salmonella testing (from the FSIS Laboratory Guidebook):
4.5.6 Whole Bird Rinses
Due to differences between sample types/sizes (e.g. chicken vs. turkey carcasses), follow instructions given in the specific program protocol.
a. For chicken carcasses, aseptically drain excess fluid from the carcass and transfer the carcass to a sterile Stomacher 3500 bag, or equivalent.
b. Pour 400 ml (or other volume specified in program protocol) of BPW into the cavity of the carcass contained in the bag.
c. Rinse the bird inside and out with a rocking motion for one minute (ca. 35 RPM). This is done by grasping the broiler carcass in the bag with one hand and the closed top of the bag with the other. Rock with a reciprocal motion in about an 18-24 inch arc, assuring that all surfaces (interior and exterior of the carcass) are rinsed.
d. Transfer the sample rinse fluid to a sterile container.
e. Use 30 ± 0.6 ml of the sample rinse fluid obtained above for Salmonella analysis. Add 30 ± 0.6 ml of sterile BPW and mix well.
f. Incubate at 35 ± 2C for 20-24 h.
g. Proceed to Section 4.6 to continue the cultural analysis or refer to MLG 4C for use of the BAX® PCR Assay.
Here are my problems with USDA’s method:
The first step in the procedure is to throw away excess fluid from the carcass – the very material that is most likely to contain Salmonella.
The carcass is rinsed with 400 ml (about 13.5 fluid ounces) of liquid – no problem there, if all of the liquid was used in the test. But USDA only uses 30 ml – less than 10% – of the rinse liquid for the Salmonella test.
In essence, USDA has dumbed down its Salmonella test, reducing the sensitivity of the test to less than 10% of what it should be – and easily could be.”
Back to the pet food concern, Cargill (who recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey) does manufacture two brands of pet food; Loyall and River Run. Both of these dog foods contain ingredients which could be sourced from recalled turkey (poultry by-products, meat and bone meal, and animal fat). The recalled meat is probably turned over to rendering facilities (who process other waste meat ingredients and expired grocery food). Our FDA allows waste ingredients to be processed into pet food.
So yes…my guess is that the recalled turkey will end up as pet food ingredients.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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