Cargill, Inc., said Monday that it has resumed ground turkey production at its meat processing facility in Springdale, Arkansas, after introducing new food safety measures following a salmonella outbreak that led to two recalls.
In August and September, the Minnetonka-based company voluntarily recalled 221 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey products made at the facility following a multi-state outbreak of salmonella Heidelberg.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person died from the salmonella strain linked to the plant, and 136 others were sickened.
In its Monday announcement, Cargill said that one of four ground turkey production lines at the Springdale facility has been reactivated, and the other three will resume operations in the coming weeks.
The announcement about resuming production in Springdale comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the plant's new safety plan, the company said.
Because production is being resumed, Cargill has re-hired about 50 of 130 workers who were laid off in early October. (More than 70 of the others were previously called back to work as jobs became available in other parts of the facility.)
During the past few months, Cargill food safety scientists have been exploring solutions to reduce the risk of salmonella in ground turkey. "No stone has been left unturned as we searched for answers to help us improve food safety," Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, said in a statement.
Cargill said that its new safety measures include more and better bacterial reduction steps throughout the process; a three-phase ground turkey sampling and monitoring program that it calls the "most rigorous in the industry"; and high-pressure processing to reduce the likelihood of salmonella.
Salmonella is most often found in meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Much of the time, those who consume meat contaminated with it experience only mild discomfort. But salmonella Heidelberg is turning out to be significantly more dangerous, according to The Wall Street Journal.