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Ground turkey was a hot topic last week and will likely remain in the headlines for the indefinite future in the wake of Cargill's removal of about 36 million pounds of turkey, both fresh and frozen, because of its possible contamination with an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella.
The most solid message that retailers could extend to customers was to make sure turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees, as the high temperature kills salmonella. But otherwise, their shelves were virtually bare of turkey – an increasingly preferred meat choice for many these days because of its reputation as being healthy.
Behind the scenes, a lot of work is being done to investigate what happened with what is being described as the second-largest meat recall in U.S. history, and to make sure the U.S. food supply is made safer going forward. Just days after the recall, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is prepared to announce the first step in a new traceback policy for ground beef within 90 days. He made the announcement at the International Association for Food Protection’s Annual Conference. In addition, Vilsack said he expects to see the implementation of a "test and hold" policy later this year.
The American Meat Institute has been petitioning for a change in traceback policies since 2008.
When politics are involved, change takes time. But here's hoping that the safety of U.S. consumers continues to be at the forefront of policy-makers' minds.