Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened with what public health authorities believe is salmonella from raw chicken products made at three Foster Farms plants in California. This is according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service. The illnesses were caused by salmonella Heidelberg, an infection that causes nausea and vomiting, but can be more problematic for infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. Salmonella Heidelberg has shown signs of resistance to antibiotics, which may explain the higher than expected numbers of hospitalizations.
Earlier this year, 134 people in 13 states became sick from raw Foster Farms chicken. That outbreak, which was declared over in July, sent 33 people to the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The illnesses in both outbreaks were traced back to Foster Farms products through epidemiologic and laboratory methods. But health officials are unable to determine what specific product or products are the culprits. Thus far, there have been no recalls on Foster Farms chicken products related to this most recent issue.
The company says it’s working with federal officials to eradicate the bacteria from its plants. Meanwhile, consumers should use care when handling raw poultry. It must be cooked to at least 165 degrees in order to kill any bacteria that may be on it. Foster Farms is the 10th largest poultry producer in the country. The company released a statement saying it is putting all of its resources into improving the safety of its fresh chicken. Foster Farms has processing plants in California, Oregon, Washington and Alabama.
According to reports, the company was able to show the USDA satisfactory plans to improve conditions. For that reason the plants will remain operational for now. It appears that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service didn’t believe a recall of chicken from those factories was required. In any event, a recall was not mandated.
Sources: NBC, Law 360, Washington Post, RightingInjustice.com (Jennifer Walker-Journey, Kurt Niland)
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