On Thursday, a 12-state Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 124 people over the last eight months was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although health officials in Washington and Oregon have linked the outbreak to chicken produced by Foster Farms of Livingston, Calif., the company has declined to issue a recall, issuing instead a statement telling consumers to take care when preparing chicken.
“There is no recall in effect for any brand of chicken related to the Oregon Health Authority announcement as it is widely known that all raw chicken must be responsibly handled and properly prepared to ensure safety and quality. All raw chicken, like all raw meats, can contain bacteria that can be harmful to human health. For this reason, all raw chicken must be fully cooked to ensure safety and quality. Bacteria on food, including Salmonella, are fully eliminated and present no risk with proper storage, handling and preparation,” reads a statement on the company’s website.
The company does “everything it can to ensure the safety of our poultry products within our facilities and our testing results demonstrate excellence. However, there is always room to provide more education and awareness about food safety practices,” according to the statement. “Foster Farms reminds consumers that raw poultry should not be allowed to cross-contaminate other foods or food preparation surfaces. All raw poultry products should be prepared according to package guidelines and cooked to at least an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to guarantee that they have been fully cooked.”
In the statement, Foster Farms describes itself as an “industry leader” that is constantly reviewing and implementing new technology. “Since 2005, testing results for Salmonella from the USDA-FSIS in the Pacific Northwest have consistently been well below the limits set for raw poultry. This indicates that our Pacific Northwest facilities maintained consistent process control for Salmonella. Our facilities have earned and maintained Category 1 classification – the highest performance category for Salmonella safety and control – for the last seven years.”
Still, from June to January, 124 people in 12 states contracted salmonellosis from the tainted chicken. One third of them became so sick they required hospitalization. Symptoms of a Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) usually develop six to 72 hours after exposure and include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. Anyone who has eaten this chicken and develops symptoms should see a doctor.