How the Salmonella Stole Thanksgiving: What to Know About the Outbreak in Turkey Products

Photo: Stocksy/Jeff Wasserman
If Thanksgiving doesn't feel complete to you without a plate full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole, you're in good company: a whopping 46 million turkeys are eaten to celebrate the holiday each year. But if you were looking for an excuse to start a new, bird-free tradition, you might be in luck. Due to a salmonella outbreak, that classic main course might lead you to trade in your go-to Joey Tribbiani-style "Thanksgiving pants" for a hospital gown.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), right now there's a 35-state salmonella outbreak that's been linked to raw turkey products—something that's actually been causing infections since July. Now months later, there have been a total of 164 reported cases. While the milder ones involve diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, the infection can also be more serious and require medical attention. It can even be life-threatening: 63 cases have required hospitalization, and one case has led to death.

It's worth noting that a couple details make this outbreak a little scarier than others (hi, melons and eggs!). Thanksgiving is only a week away, and a specific supplier has yet to be identified for the problem, meaning any raw turkey you buy could be contaminated. Oh, and this salmonella is multi-drug-resistant, meaning it's harder to kill.

The CDC isn't recommending that people ditch turkey completely this Thanksgiving, but do be sure that it's handled and cooked properly.

The CDC isn't recommending that people ditch turkey completely, but do be sure that it's handled and cooked properly. Also, don't rule out the abundant meat-free options that don't just save turkeys (and the environment!) but also just might keep you from getting sick.

There are plenty of store-bought products to try—like Gardein's holiday roast, Tofurky's plant-based roast, and Field Roast's celebration roast—but you could also go with a homemade veggie-centric meal that's sure to impress even the pickiest eaters. Try a whole-roasted cauliflower with just six simple ingredients, a glazed butternut squash that's almost too pretty to eat, or even some smokey maple tempeh. After just a couple bites into your turkey alternative, you'll quickly realize your meat-free holiday might just be the best (and healthiest) one yet.

Here are nine raw vegan pies to be thankful for this year. Or, try this turmeric pumpkin quinoa oatmeal for the perfect post-Thanksgiving breakfast.

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