Question: I just heard that some raw turkey products have been linked to a salmonella outbreak. How can I protect myself from developing a salmonella infection from raw turkey?
Answer: Whenever you are handling raw turkey, it’s always important to handle it carefully and to cook it thoroughly to prevent developing a foodborne illness.
This is because raw poultry can be can be contaminated with bacterial pathogens such as salmonella, campylobacter, and clostridium perfringens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, if you eat undercooked poultry or other foods or beverages contaminated by raw poultry or its juices, you could get a foodborne illness.
The turkey outbreak that you are likely referring to is the ongoing salmonella outbreak that began just before Thanksgiving in November 2018. As of Feb. 13, some 279 people in 41 states have reported salmonellosis after eating contaminated turkey products, and at least one person died, the CDC said this week.
In Ohio, at least eight people have reported salmonella infections as part of this outbreak, the CDC said.
At this point, not one single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has been identified by the CDC as the cause of the whole outbreak. But the outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from some raw turkey products, live turkeys, and raw turkey pet foods, the CDC said.
As a result, the CDC has issued a list of recalled products. Information on recalled products can be found here. However, with the exception of the recalled products, the government agency said it is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products.
Foodborne diseases are preventable and can be avoided by using safe handling practices at home, said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Precautions to take
To help prevent a salmonella infection from raw turkey, the CDC advises consumers:
Wash your hands before and after handling raw turkey products.
Cook raw turkey thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Turkey breasts, whole turkeys, and ground poultry, including turkey burgers, casseroles, and sausage, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill harmful germs. Leftovers should also be reheated to 165 degrees.
Always use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey to indicate if it is done cooking. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food.
Don’t wash raw poultry before cooking. This could cause the germs in raw poultry juices to spread to other areas and foods.
Thoroughly wash your hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw turkey.
Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and other raw meats.
It’s also important to note that since some raw turkey pet foods have been identified as a part of this outbreak, the CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets. This is because germs like salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick. You can also spread those same germs by handling the raw food or by taking care of your pet.
Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or firstname.lastname@example.org.