Cargill initiated a voluntary recall of 36m pounds of ground turkey products from its Springdale, Arkansas plant on August 3 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected a salmonella outbreak. The outbreak strain has been linked to at least 107 illnesses across 31 states, and one death.
In a statement released Thursday, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based turkey processing plant Steve Willardsen said: “While we have already taken significant steps to enhance our food safety program at our Springdale, Ark., turkey processing facility, and those measures have been approved by USDA, we believe a panel of independent experts will be able to help us assess and validate the measures we’ve put in place while also providing us with valued external perspectives and recommendations for additional steps we could take. We have asked the panel to look at the entire process from live animal operations through ground turkey production.”
The panel includes professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety Dr. Michael Doyle, former administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and senior policy advisor at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz Barbara Masters, and professor in the University of Minnesota’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences Dr. Craig Hedberg.
Since the recall, Cargill has resumed turkey processing at the plant, after putting in place measures to improve food safety. These included disassembling and steam cleaning equipment, adding two antibacterial washes to those already being used, and requiring its Springdale suppliers to use comparable antibacterial technology.
Willardsen said the company would share best practices emerging from its food safety efforts with other turkey processing facilities.
He said: “Effectively dealing with randomly and naturally occurring bacteria is a collective challenge for the industry and its supply chain, as well as for regulators, yet we will never relax our pursuit of better ways to improve food safety and reduce the potential for food borne illness. People expect safe food, and our goal is to provide it each serving, every time.”