Federal officials say one person has died from salmonella poisoning that appears to be linked to eating ground turkey, but the government is still investigating who produced the meat and has not initiated a recall.
Seventy-six people in 26 states have been made sick from the same strain of the disease. The CDC did not say where the person who died became sick and released no details about the death.
The U.S. Agriculture Department, which oversees meat safety, said it is still investigating who produced the meat and has yet to initiate a recall.
“We were notified by our buyer that there was an issue, but there wasn’t any type of recall,” said Fort Worth grocer Robert Vega.
Vega, who is the store manager at Roy Pope’s Grocery Store, calls the situation frustrating. He said he would be more than happy to pull the turkey from his shelves, but doesn’t know which brand is affected.
"The first word we get [of a recall] we’ll be happy to pull it off, switch to another brand if that’s what’s called for, or just stop selling it altogether,” he said.
The Agriculture Department sent out an alert about the illnesses late last week telling consumers to properly cook their turkey, which can decrease the chances of salmonella poisoning. But the department has not given consumers any further warnings about the source of the tainted meat.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service "has not linked these illnesses to a particular brand, product, or establishment, and therefore has not issued a recall," spokesman Brian Mabry said Tuesday. "We are continuing to investigate this situation."
The illnesses date back to March, and the CDC said Monday that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed salmonella contamination. The agency said preliminary information showed that three of the samples have been linked to the same production establishment but did not name the retailers or the manufacturers.
The CDC said it and the USDA were " vigorously working to identify the specific contaminated product or products that are causing illnesses and will update the public on the progress of this investigation as information becomes available."
Food safety advocate Bill Marler, an attorney who has represented victims of the nation's biggest food-borne illness outbreaks, said he believes the three positive samples should prompt a recall.
"Consumers have no idea what to do except not eat ground turkey," he said.
The illnesses are spread all over the country. The states with the highest number sickened were Michigan and Ohio, 10 illnesses each, while nine illnesses were reported in Texas. Illinois had seven, California six and Pennsylvania five.
The remaining states have between one and three reported illnesses linked to the outbreak, according to the CDC: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
A chart on the CDC's website shows cases have occurred every month since early March, with spikes in May and early June. The latest reported cases were in mid-July, although the CDC said some recent cases may not have been reported yet.
Online: CDC info on salmonella in ground turkey: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg/080111/index.html
NBC 5's Amanda Guerra contributed to this report.