Turkey burgers in your freezer? Check the packaging


For some people, it might be one more reason to try veggie burgers -- 27 tons of frozen turkey burgers are being recalled because of possible salmonella contamination.

The recall is for Jennie-O turkey burgers, sold exclusively at Sam’s Club and packaged in a carton of 12 individually wrapped one-third pound patties. Hormel Foods offers this identifying information:

“A use by date of ‘DEC 23 2011’ and an identifying lot code of ‘32710’ through ‘32780’ are inkjetted on the side panel of each box, just above the opening tear strip. Establishment number ‘P-7760’ is located within the USDA mark of inspection on the front of each box.”

The investigation that prompted the recall began when Wisconsin health officials notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety and inspection service of a case of salmonella in that state.

Now, at least 12 people have been diagnosed with the particular strain, called Salmonella serotype Hadar, linked to the recall. The illnesses occurred between December 2010 and March 2011 in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin. Three patients — in Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin — specifically ate the Jennie-O turkey burger before falling ill.

But before you start swearing off meat, consider this: Last month, Del Monte recalled nearly 5,000 cartons of cantaloupes after a strain of salmonella infected 13 people and hospitalized three. And between November 2010 and February 2011, 140 people were infected by a different strain of salmonella in alfalfa sprouts linked to from Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Last summer, more than 3,500 people were infected with salmonella from eggs.

People infected with salmonella usually develop a fever, diarrhea and stomach cramps within half a day to three days after consuming the contaminated food, according to the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention. Most people recover in four to seven days, but if the diarrhea is severe, some have to be hospitalized.

The USDA food safety and inspection service recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat. Poultry should be cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

So give veggie burgers a try if you want. But a meat-less diet won’t protect you from nasty outbreaks – especially considering that eggs are often used as binders in veggie burgers.