WASHINGTON (B)--Cargill Turkey Products said late Dec. 14 it is voluntarily recalling 16.7 million pounds of "ready-to-eat" turkey distributed nationwide in order "to safeguard against possible infection by Listeria monocytogenes" bacteria.

Cargill Turkey Products, based in Springdale, AR, is part of Minneapolis-based Cargill, Inc. All of the turkey products were produced in Cargill's Waco, TX, plant between May 1 and Dec. 11.

Cases of human illness may be related to contaminated turkey products, but specialists will not know until testing is completed, Cargill said.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and...the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying whether some products from the Waco facility might contain Listeria monocytogenes associated with 25 cases of listeriosis, most of which have occurred since July 2000," according to the Thursday press release.

John O'Carroll, president of Cargill Turkey Products, said in the release, "Even though CDC and FSIS's study isn't completed, the preliminary results convinced us that it was in the best interest of consumers and our customers to voluntarily initiate this recall. If consumers have any of the recalled products, they should not eat them, but return them to the point of purchase."

Cargill said the following products were recalled:

Sliced products: Owen's Hickory Smoked Pre-Sliced Turkey Breast, fresh; Plantation Fiesta Pre-Sliced Turkey Breast, fresh; Mesquite Smoked Pre-Sliced Turkey Breast, fresh; Frozen Pre-Sliced Smoke banquet-style Turkey Breast, fresh; Frozen Black Forest Turkey Ham, fresh; Pre-Sliced Turkey Pastrami, fresh; Frozen Pre-Sliced Star Turkey Breast; Riverside Pre-Sliced Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast, fresh; Frozen Pre-Sliced Oven Prepared Turkey Breast, frozen; Honeysuckle White Pre-Sliced Oven Prepared Turkey, fresh and frozen.

Unsliced products: Dine Rite Picnic Dark Turkey, fresh and frozen; Old South Turkey Ham, fresh; Plantation Cajun Fried Turkey, frozen; Honeysuckle White Cajun-Style Fried Whole Turkey, frozen; Boar's Head Our Premium Low Salt Turkey, frozen; Golden Catering Skin-on Turkey Breast, fresh; Carmel Colored Our Premium Turkey Breast, fresh; Our Premium Low Salt Skinless Turkey Breast, fresh; Smoked Turkey Breast, fresh; Oil Browned Chicken Breast, fresh; Oven Prepared Skinless Turkey Breast, fresh; Smoked Chicken Breast, fresh.

Cargill said, "The Waco facility sold other products in bulk and that were sliced at delicatessens and restaurants and would not be readily identifiable by consumers. Cargill Turkey Products has contacted establishments who purchased those products, which are being removed and returned. Consumers who are concerned whether they may have eaten any of the products should contact their local grocery stores or restaurants."

The listeria bacterium can cause listeriosis, a rare but sometimes fatal disease most likely to effect the very young, the very old, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, according to USDA.

While often associated with processed meats, listeria can infect many kinds of processed foods, including salads, cheese and milk.

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