Cargill restarts Arkansas turkey plant

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 16, 2011 - 9:51 PM

The company says it has adopted new safety measures after a salmonella outbreak.

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Caged live turkeys arrived by truck this month at the Cargill turkey processing plant in Springdale, Ark. Cargill has resumed the production of ground turkey at the plant.

Photo: Danny Johnston, Associated Press

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Cargill Inc. has resumed ground turkey production at an Arkansas plant that was the source of a massive recall.

But the agribusiness giant was also hit Tuesday with the second of what could be several lawsuits connected to a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

On Aug. 3, Cargill recalled about 36 million pounds of ground turkey, one of the largest U.S. meat recalls ever, after its product was linked to a salmonella outbreak that began in February. As of Aug. 11, the outbreak had sickened 107 people in 31 states, federal health authorities say.

At the time of the recall, Minnetonka-based Cargill shut down grinding operations at its turkey processing operation in Springdale, Ark. Late last week, the company restarted limited production of a ground turkey product that had been subject to recall.

Production resumed after the addition of new safety measures approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Mike Martin, a Cargill spokesman. They included upping by 25 percent an anti-bacterial wash for just-slaughtered birds, and adding two new anti-bacterial baths during the evisceration process.

While the Arkansas plant is now producing a limited amount of 93 percent lean ground turkey, Cargill hasn't determined when it will resume making its 85 percent lean product, Martin said.

On Tuesday, Cargill was sued by an Oregon couple who say their 1-year-old daughter was sickened with Salmonella Heidelberg in June, after eating spaghetti and meatballs made with ground turkey.

The girl developed diarrhea and a 102-degree fever, and then spent seven days in a hospital, the suit says.

The first lawsuit against Cargill came within days after the recall announcement. It involved a 38-year-old Arizona man who alleges he was hospitalized in June after being infected by Salmonella Heidelberg, one of more than 2,000 strains of the salmonella bacteria.

The outbreak involves a particularly virulent type of Salmonella Heidelberg that's resistant to several common antibiotics. Thus, there's an increased risk of hospitalization or treatment failure, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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