Cargill has asked a panel of experts in food safety, microbiology and epidemiology to review its enhanced ground turkey food safety program in the wake of the company's Aug. 3, 2011, voluntary recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey. Cargill initiated the recall after learning that the US Centers for Disease Control had detected an outbreak of Salmonella-related illnesses.
“We are leaving no stone unturned,” explained Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based turkey processing business. “While we have already taken significant steps to enhance our food safety program at our Springdale, Ark., turkey processing facility, and those measures have been approved by USDA, we believe a panel of independent experts will be able to help us assess and validate the measures we’ve put in place while also providing us with valued external perspectives and recommendations for additional steps we could take. We have asked the panel to look at the entire process from live animal operations through ground turkey production.”
The panel includes Dr. Michael Doyle, professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety; Barbara J. Masters D.V.M., who is senior policy advisor at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz, as well as former administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); and Dr. Craig W. Hedberg, professor in the University of Minnesota’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences, specialising in epidemiology.
Cargill’s Springdale plant is a federally inspected poultry processing facility, and USDA inspectors are present every minute the plant is operating. Since the recall, Cargill has made several enhancements to its food safety program. These include two additional antibacterial washes, intensifying an existing antibacterial system, disassembling and steam cleaning equipment before resuming ground turkey production, and requiring suppliers of turkey meat to add a new antibacterial wash. The company has also implemented the most aggressive Salmonella monitoring and testing program in the poultry industry.
“We will share best practices emerging from our food safety efforts with other turkey processing facilities,” added Willardsen. “Effectively dealing with randomly and naturally occurring bacteria is a collective challenge for the industry and its supply chain, as well as for regulators, yet we will never relax our pursuit of better ways to improve food safety and reduce the potential for food borne illness. People expect safe food, and our goal is to provide it each serving, every time.”