Cargill’s massive recall of ground turkey products last week was not the first time the industry giant had to call back potentially contaminated meat from the marketplace.

Here is a brief list of some of the past recalls and associated outbreaks of foodborne illness involving Cargill, a company that sells food and agriculture products around the globe and whose net profit was more than $26 billion in 2010:

1993 – Cargill supplied meat to Northwest Sizzler restaurants that was implicated in an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infection involving 39 confirmed and 54 probable cases. Public health investigators said the illnesses were the result of cross-contamination between raw Cargill Tri-tips and salad bar ingredients.

2000 – Cargill provided meat to Sizzler restaurants linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses that killed one person and sickened that 62.  

2000 – Sliced turkey from a Cargill processing plant in Texas was found to be the source of a multi-state outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes. The company recalled 16 million pounds of turkey after reports of infection that eventually included seven deaths and 29 illnesses. Eight of the case patients were pregnant and three miscarriages/stillbirths were attributed to the contaminated turkey. 

2001 – Cargill ground beef patties tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 after a child from Georgia became ill. Three of the patties were purchased at Kroger and one from Sam’s Club, but all of the ill children and the tested meat had genetically indistinguishable strains of E. coli. Emmpak recalled 254,000 pounds of potentially contaminated ground beef.

2002 – Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Newport was found in ground beef from Emmpak, a Cargill subsidiary. The CDC reported one fatality, 47 illnesses and 12 hospitalizations linked to consumption of the ground beef. Emmpak recalled a record 2.8 million pounds of potentially contaminated ground beef.

2007 – After Minnesota health officials traced 46 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses to ground beef patties, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation recalled 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties from retail locations across the U.S.

2007 – Cargill recalled 1,084,384 pounds of ground beef after federal tests detected E. coli O157:H7 in the product.  No illnesses were associated with this recall.

2008 – Beef cheek produced by Beef Packers, a Cargill subsidiary, tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, prompting a 1,560 pound recall.  No illnesses were associated with this recall.

2009 –  At least 40 cases of Salmonella Newport infection were linked to Beef Packers ground beef in the summer, sparking a  summertime recall of 830,000 pounds of ground beef.  Then, in December, more Salmonella illnesses tied to the producer’s meat led to a recall of 20,000 pounds of products.  Both recalls involved contamination with drug-resistant Salmonella bacteria.  

2010 – Cargill Meat Solutions recalled 8,500 pounds of ground beef after reports of illnesses caused by E. coli O26, a rare strain of the bacteria that produces the same Shiga-like toxin as the more common E. coli O157:H7.  The meat was distributed by BJ’s Wholesale Club.

2011 – Cargill Meat Solutions recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg. Current outbreak numbers: one dead, 78 ill, 22 hospitalized.

Since 1993, Cargill has been the source of contaminated meat implicated in at least 10 major outbreaks, 10 deaths, three stillbirths and 347 illnesses. 

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Photo of Marijke Schwarz Smith Marijke Schwarz Smith

Marijke Schwarz Smith graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Individualized Studies – Public Health and a B.A. in Geography. She is currently a candidate for a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. She has a specific interest in how the geography of a location can influence the health of the location’s inhabitants. Along with a keen interest in food and cooking, Marijke has a passion for bikes and has raced at the collegiate level.