Turkey recall: How it ranks with major food recalls

Cargill's Aug. 3 recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey is the latest in a string of high-profile food recalls in the United States. The volume of meat recalled was a quarter of the largest meat recall on record, but it was linked to far more health effects. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 15 percent of Americans – some 48 million – become ill from food-borne pathogens each year. Most outbreaks are local events; a few are national in scope. Here's a look at some of the biggest food recalls in the past five years:

1.Ground turkey recall – August 2011 (ongoing)

Products subject to meat giant Cargill's recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak are seen on display at a grocery store in Redwood City, Calif., Aug. 3, 2011. The turkey recall doesn't involve anywhere near the tonnage of the record meat recall in 2008, but it has affected far more people. Officials have linked it to one fatality and 78 instances of illness. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

Cargill recalled roughly 36 million pounds of ground turkey products distributed nationwide, asking people who have purchased them to return the items to the stores where they were purchased. The turkey may be contaminated by a multidrug resistant strain of salmonella, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which caused a surge of cases since February. Federal and Cargill officials linked 79 cases of infection, including one fatality, to the company's turkey processing plant in Springdale, Ark., prompting Cargill to issue the turkey recall Aug. 3. For a list of the recalled products, click here.

Egg recall – August 2010

Buildings at the egg operations run by Wright County Egg on Highway 69, near Galt, Iowa, are shown Aug. 20, 2010. After an outbreak of salmonella in several states, investigators traced the problem to Wright County Egg, leading to one of the largest shell egg recalls in recent history. In December 2010, the facility was allowed to start shipping fresh eggs again. (Nirmalnedu Majumdar/AP/File)

Two Iowa egg companies – Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms – recalled some 500 million eggs after officials in California, Colorado, and Minnesota identified restaurants where patrons had recently fallen ill. Those cases were then linked to shell eggs and back to the two companies, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The recall involved distributors to the Lower 48 states, but there were no fatalities linked to the eggs. In October 2010, the FDA allowed Hillandale Farms to start shipping fresh eggs again. In December, Wright County Egg also got the green light to start shipping fresh eggs.

Romaine lettuce recall – May 2010

Freshway Foods in Sidney, Ohio, is photographed May, 7, 2010. Federal investigators linked the company's bagged salads with the hospitalization of 12 people. (Luke Gronneberg/The Sidney Daily News/AP/File)

Freshway Foods’ romaine lettuce was the source of a major recall involving ‘grab and go’ bagged salad as well as romaine lettuce offered with in-store salad bars and delis at supermarkets. These products were found in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and linked to the hospitalization of 12 people, including three with life-threatening symptoms, according to the FDA.

Spinach recall – September 2006

Steve Rispoli, supervisor of produce at Whole Foods Market in Middletown, N.J., arranges bagged produce, including fresh spinach, at the supermarket Jan. 31, 2007. The September 2006 national spinach recall, initially linked to five fatalities, appears to have shaken consumer confidence in spinach and other greens. But investigators could not pinpoint the contamination source. (Mike Derer/AP/File)

Customers were warned not to eat bagged or fresh spinach after the CDC reported cases of e.coli contamination in 19 states. In all, the outbreak was linked to five fatalities and more than $350 million in losses for the spinach industry. After an investigation, an FDA report said the cause remained unknown.

Peanut butter recall – January 2009

House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Rep. Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan (left) watches as Rep. Greg Walden (R) of Oregon holds up a container of food items that were recalled due to the recent salmonella outbreak associated with peanut products manufactured by the Peanut Corp. of America Feb. 11, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The contamination was linked to eight fatalities. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File)

A Blakely, Ga., processing plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America, made peanut butter and paste that was contaminated with salmonella and sold to institutions and food manufacturers. The contamination was linked to eight fatalities and forced a massive recall, involving more than 200 companies and 2,100 products.

Beef recall – February 2008

In a file photo a security guard closes a side gate at Hallmark Meat Packing Co., Jan. 30, 2008, in Chino, Calif. The US Department of Agriculture on Sunday Feb. 17, 2008, ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of beef after an animal-abuse investigation. (Therese Tran/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/AP/File)

The largest beef recall in US history – more than 140 million pounds of red meat – was sparked by a covert Humane Society video showing employees at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co.in Chino, Calif., dragging so-called "downer" cows onto a killing floor. Federal officials determined the cows had not been properly inspected. Although no illnesses were tied to the recall, it sparked changes in food-safety procedures, caused the company to close, and led to the criminal conviction of two employees.

Geoff Johnson is a Monitor researcher. An earlier version of this story appeared here.