A large, multi-state Salmonella outbreak has sickened hundreds of people and raw chicken products appear to be the culprit.
Hundreds of people from 18 states have been sickened by the Salmonella outbreak tied to raw chicken products produced at three California plants that are owned by Foster Farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced, according to Reuters.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert over the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, indicating that, as of current information, it is unable to tie the illnesses to either a specific product or a specific production period. The FSIS did indicate that the Foster Farms’ raw chicken products involved bear one of the following establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package:
According to the FSIS, the products were, for the most part, distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Reuters indicated that Salmonella Heidelberg is the third most common Salmonella strain.
To date, the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak has sickened 278 in 18 states; most of the illnesses have been reported in California, and the outbreak is ongoing. Investigations indicate that Foster Farms brand chicken and other Foster Farms-produced brand chicken are the likely sources of the infections. Illnesses were tied back to Foster Farms brand chicken through epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials, the FSIS indicated.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collaborating with state health departments to monitor the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, while FSIS continues its investigation.
FSIS reminds consumers to properly handle raw poultry in a manner that prevents contamination from spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces. The agency also notes that consumers must follow package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing raw meat or poultry. Specifically, although cooking instructions may provide a specific number of minutes under which to cook each side of the product to reach 165 °F internal temperature, actual time may vary, depending on the cooking method–broiling, frying, or grilling—and product temperature—chilled, frozen. It is critical that the final temperature be 165 °F so that optimal safety is assured; use a food thermometer as this is the only way to confirm that food reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, which can be life-threatening, especially in people with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and people diagnosed with HIV infection or who are undergoing chemotherapy. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours of consumption of a contaminated product. People may also experience chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting that can last up to seven days.
Foster Farms issued a statement indicating that it is collaborating with authorities; however, no recall has been put in place, according to Reuters.