WASHINGTON — In the wake of a recall of more than 36 million pounds of turkey after a government hunt for the source of a salmonella outbreak, Kroger is contacting customers who bought the recalled products.
Kroger is one of several grocery chains that sold the ground turkey under their store brands. The others are HEB, Safeway, Randall's, Tom Thumb and Giant Eagle.
Tim McGurk, a spokesman for Kroger in Kentucky, said the chain was using Kroger Plus Card shopping data to contact by phone customers who have bought the recalled products. Affected customers also will see a printed message on their receipts the next time they shop at Kroger.
The Agriculture Department said the recall by Cargill was is one of the largest meat recalls ever.
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One person in California has died as a result of the outbreak, and dozens more have been sickened. Two cases were reported in Kentucky, according to the CDC.
The USDA and the Minnesota-based company announced Wednesday evening that Cargill was recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company's Springdale, Ark., plant from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2 due to possible contamination from the strain of salmonella linked to 76 illnesses and the one death.
All of the packages recalled include the code "Est. P-963," according to Cargill, though packages were labeled under many different brands. In addition to the store brands, many of the recalled meats carry the Honeysuckle White label. Other brands include Riverside Ground Turkey, Natural Lean Ground Turkey, Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey, Spartan Ground Turkey and Shady Brook Farms Ground Turkey Burgers.
The recall also includes some ground turkey that isn't labeled at all and some that went to food service establishments, according to Cargill.
In announcing the recall, Cargill officials said all ground turkey production has been suspended at the Springdale plant until the company is able to determine the source of the 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.
The company said it was initiating the recall after its own internal investigation, an Agriculture Department investigation and the information about the illnesses released by the CDC this week.
A chart on the CDC's Web site shows cases have occurred every month since early March, with spikes in May and early June. The latest reported cases were in mid-July, although the CDC said some recent cases might not have been reported yet. The CDC said the strain is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics.
The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It can be life-threatening to some with weakened immune systems.
"It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products," Willardsen said, "and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry."