Cargill bringing food safety panel into turkey facility

by Keith Nunes
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SPRINGDALE, ARK. — In the wake of the 36 million lb Aug. 3 recall of ground turkey produced by the Cargill facility in Springdale, the company has asked a panel of food safety officials to evaluate its food safety program at the facility. The panel includes Michael Doyle, professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety; Barbara J. Masters, who is senior policy adviser at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz, as well as former administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service; and Craig W. Hedberg, professor in the University of Minnesota’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences, specializing in epidemiology.

“We are leaving no stone unturned,” explained Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s Wichita, Kas.-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 U.S.D.A., 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.”

Since the recall, Cargill has made several changes to its food safety program. They include the addition of two 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 also has implemented what it calls 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,” Mr. Willardsen said. “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.”

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