November 21, 2014

Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak But No Recall, Again

Raw-Chicken-BreastA Salmonella outbreak has, again, been linked to Foster Farms chicken. And, again, there is no recall. Yesterday, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) issued a public health alert for raw chicken produced at three of the company’s facilities in California that has been linked to 278 illnesses in 18 sates.

It was February when the Oregon Health Authority announced a Salmonella outbreak linked to chicken produced in the company’s slaughterhouse’s outside of California and July when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a final report saying the outbreak appeared to be over after sickening 134 people in 13 states, hospitalizing 33 of them.

During the five-month-long investigation of the first outbreak,  the company never issued a recall. Instead it advised consumers that Salmonella is pretty commonly found on chicken and they should handle and cook it with care. The company is taking a similar approach this time around.

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In a statement on its website this morning, Foster Farms said it regrets any it regrets the illnesses, that it is working to fix the problem and is not issuing a recall. “Salmonella is naturally occurring in poultry and can be fully eradicated if raw product is properly handled and fully cooked,” Dr. Robert O’Connor, the company’s food safety chief and head veterinarian said in the statement  “All poultry producers strive to reduce bacterial presence, including Salmonella. We take food safety very seriously. When the incidence of illnesses linked to Salmonella increased, we wanted to know why and we have worked quickly to identify and implement additional controls. It is also important to reassure the public that the FSIS process has not been affected by the recent government shutdown.”

The statement also says; “Salmonella Heidelberg is the nation’s third most common strain of the Salmonella pathogen, which can result in foodborne illness if not destroyed by the heat of proper cooking.” And offers the following advice: “Foster Farms reminds consumers to follow the Poultry ABCs – Always Be Careful. Raw poultry must be handled and cooked in accordance with the safe handling guidelines on all packages of chicken. These include: keeping the product refrigerated or frozen; thawing in refrigerator or microwave; keeping raw meat and poultry separate from other foods; washing working surfaces (including cutting boards), utensils and hands after touching raw meat or poultry; keeping hot foods hot; and refrigerating leftovers immediately or discarding. All fresh poultry products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer.”

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