Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, Wichita, Kan., is recalling approximately 36 million pounds of ground turkey products that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

USDA said the recall follows a FSIS Public Health Alert on July 29 due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that may be associated with use and consumption of ground turkey. Officials said 79 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 26 states between March 1 and August 3, 2011.

USDA noted that outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. Among the ill persons with available information, 22 (38%) have been hospitalized and 1 death has been reported. As a result of the epidemiologic and traceback investigations, as well as in-plant findings, FSIS determined that there is a link between the Cargill ground turkey products and this illness outbreak. FSIS is continuing to work with CDC, affected state public health partners, and the company on the investigation.

In related news, Cargill Value Added Meats Retail said it suspended ground turkey processing at its Springdale, Ark., turkey plant until officials determine the source of the Salmonella Heidelberg and take corrective actions. Other turkey products produced at Springdale are not part of the recall, officials noted. Cargill owns four U.S. turkey processing facilities and no products from the other three are involved in the recall.

"While facts continue to be gathered, and currently there is no conclusive answer regarding the source of Salmonella Heidelberg contamination, given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace," said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill's turkey processing business.

"Additionally, we have suspended ground turkey production at our Arkansas facility until the source can be pinpointed and actions to address it are taken.  Public health and the safety of consumers cannot be compromised.  It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry.  We go to great lengths to ensure the food we produce is safe and we fully understand that people expect to be able to consume safe food, each serving, every time."

Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cargill, Incorporated, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services.