Cargill resumes ground turkey production in Ark.

Published 9:31 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — An Arkansas meat processing plant that was linked to a salmonella outbreak this year is producing ground turkey again, meat giant Cargill Inc. said Monday.

The move comes after the Minnesota-based company improved safety measures in response to the outbreak that left one person dead and prompted the recall of millions of pounds of turkey.

Cargill said it brought back about 50 of the 130 workers who were laid off from the plant in October because the northwest Arkansas plant wasn’t producing ground turkey. More than 70 other workers had already rejoined the company after the layoffs.

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The company recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey in August after the Agriculture Department said the meat was linked to a death in California and dozens of illnesses.

Cargill halted production at the Springdale plant and briefly resumed processing turkey. Then, in September, the company announced a second recall after a test showed salmonella in a sample from the plant.

Now, Cargill said it has restarted one of four ground turkey production lines at the Springdale plant after the Agriculture Department approved a set of safety measures. The other three lines will start up in the coming weeks.

Cargill said it has since created a sampling and monitoring program and put more and better bacterial reduction steps into place at the plant.

The Arkansas plant has about 1,200 employees and — at full production — processes 7 million pounds of finished turkey products each week ranging from whole birds to turkey breasts to ground products.