December 13, 2011
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — About 50 remaining laid off workers at Cargill Inc. in Springdale may be recalled by Christmas, a company official said.
"We hope to resume ground turkey production in Springdale before the holidays, just as soon as we get the final go-ahead from the appropriate authorities," Cargill spokesman Michael Martin told the Springdale Morning News for a story published Tuesday.
Plant officials are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food safety officials who are finalizing approval of Cargill's new protocol to reduce food-borne pathogens, Martin said.
The plant was shut down Sept. 12 after it was linked to a salmonella outbreak in ground turkey that killed one person and sickened about 130 others nationwide.
About 130 employees were then laid off Oct. 3 when the suspension of ground turkey production went on longer than anticipated.
Martin said 72 employees have been recalled to work elsewhere in the plant.
"We know about seven of those originally laid off have secured other employment and it's our hope to soon recall the remaining 51 workers," he said.
Poultry experts said Cargill may never know the exact origin of the salmonella linked to the nationwide outbreak.
Cargill has no doubt looked at every step in its business for ways to better prevent pathogens from entering the processing plant, said Frank Jones, a consultant with Performance Poultry in Springdale.
He said there are health risks associated with handling and eating raw meat, but consumers have a shared responsibility to help prevent illness from food-borne pathogens.
"There's a reason your grandmother fried her chicken," Jones said. "Salmonella has been around a long time.
"Over time, people have learned to properly handle and prepare poultry products."
Martin said he doesn't expect the company's recently announced global 1.5 percent work force reduction to affect the plant's 1,100 employees.