Local News

Amid salmonella outbreak, experts say NC turkeys are safe to eat this Thanksgiving

Posted November 15, 2018 11:04 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2018 9:39 a.m. EST

— With one week to go before Thanksgiving, many are wondering if turkey is safe to eat.

The concerns come as the result of a widespread salmonella outbreak that has resulted in at least one death and more than 100 illnesses. The investigation into the salmonella outbreak has been ongoing for about a year.

In North Carolina, poultry products, including turkey, are a more than $34 billion per year industry. The salmonella outbreak, linked to raw turkey products, could have an impact on the country’s second leading agricultural industry, especially as the holidays approach.

“This is just an opportunity for consumers to be aware,” Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon said.

Reardon is in charge of keeping track of the state’s poultry industry. He says the state’s poultry products are safe despite area farms recovering from recent storms, like Hurricane Florence.

“We want to see our industry recover from that. We’re working hard to facilitate that here in North Carolina,” he said.

While there is growing concern about turkey products and live turkeys linked to the salmonella outbreak, the USDA has not named a supplier or suppliers responsible for the problem.

Edwin Patillo, executive chef at The Pit, said he and his staff will be preparing hundreds of turkeys over the next week. He says proper food handling techniques are key to keeping any poultry product safe.

“The important thing is to wash your hands for about four minutes,” he said. “You have to take your time and clean your hands.”

Patillo and Reardon stress that cooking a turkey thoroughly will destroy salmonella and other foodborne germs.

“If you cook the product to 165 degrees, you shouldn’t have any issues whatsoever,” Reardon said.

So far, the CDC has found salmonella at 22 slaughterhouses and seven turkey processing facilities, but none have been publicly identified.

With safe handling techniques and proper cooking techniques, experts said turkeys should be safe to eat.