Cargill is facing lawsuits from people who became ill after eating ground turkey contaminated with salmonella. On August 3, the company recalled about 36 million pounds of ground turkey. The meat recall is one of the largest in the history of the U.S. The company recalled the meat after the USDA found salmonella Heidelberg at one of its production plants. So far, more than 100 people have become ill after eating the contaminated turkey. The illnesses were reported in 30 states. One man from California has also died.

Cargill apologized to anyone who became ill after eating the contaminated turkey. Earlier reports said that the plant and the USDA knew of the contamination a year ago, but did nothing about it. The USDA is not authorized to order recalls for salmonella because it is not considered a deadly toxin, like E.coli. This particular strain of salmonella is more deadly than other strains, however, because it is resistant to many antibiotics.

The parents of a 10-month-old girl filed a lawsuit against the company seeking damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and medical costs after their daughter became ill from eating the meat. The girl ate ground turkey contaminated with salmonella Heidelberg last June and suffered diarrhea and a high fever. The girl had to be hospitalized for a week.

The bacteria is especially dangerous for babies, older people and people with compromised immune systems. According to Reuters, salmonella is the most common cause of food-borne illness in the U.S. One in six Americans suffers food poisoning every year.

Source: Reuters, “RPT-Cargill sued over Salmonella-contaminated turkey,” Jonathan Stempel, Aug. 16, 2011