An interesting news item came across the wires yesterday. It was also broadcast on most of the TV networks.

It states:

"A salmonella outbreak, resulting in one death and 76 illnesses nationwide, has been traced to contaminated turkey, like that used in turkey burgers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

It goes on to state that five cases of salmonella related to this outbreak had occurred in Pennsylvania.

Neither the CDC nor the United States Department of Agriculture have stated in what state the death occurred. They refuse to state from what brands the outbreak might be. They won't issue a recall.

This isn't fair to the consumers or the turkey industry.

By keeping the consumer in the dark, they won't buy a product that's very healthy for them.

Further, by not identifying the source of the salmonella, then it casts a pall over the entire industry.

No recall is being made, but as word gets out consumers will just stop buying turkey products. This isn't fair to anyone.

Also, were all the outbreaks in Pennsylvania in the same geographical area of the state? Pittsburgh? Erie? Lehigh Valley? We should be kept informed.

The media reports state the CDC has matched this particular strain of bacteria to four contaminated ground turkey products, which reportedly is not enough information to issue a recall.

For most people, salmonella is nothing more than an inconvenience. For people with weakened immune systems, it can be deadly.

Actually, proper handling of the product is enough to keep you safe.

The CDC recommends washing hands, kitchen surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after the come into contact with any raw meat or poultry.

Also, says the CDC, cook poultry thoroughly. Raw and cooked meat should be refrigerated within two hours of purchase, or one hour if outdoor temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

This still doesn't excuse officials from shunning their responsibilities of listing the sources of the salmonella and issuing recalls.

In April, the Jennie-O Turkey Store recalled 54,960 pounds of frozen, raw turkey burger because of possible salmonella contamination. All the salmonella cases were in the Midwest.

Why aren't officials reacting the same this time when salmonella is a problem, not a suspected problem?

The news from CDC should not be an indictment on the turkey industry. It shouldn't stop us from purchasing a very healthy product.

But the public should be informed precisely where the outbreaks occurred and who was responsible.

Mostly, though, consumers should utilize good hygiene when handling any meat product.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com