The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert because of concerns that 278 illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California. FSIS can’t link the illnesses to a specific product and production period.
Raw products from the facilities in question have one of these establishment numbers, either inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package: “P6137″, “P6137A” or “P7632″. The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon, and Washington State.
The 278 ill persons live in 18 states; most live in California. The outbreak is continuing. Illnesses were linked to Foster Farms brand chicken through epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal authorities.
The USDA reminds consumers that package cooking instructions and special handling are necessary for raw meat and poultry. The product must reach a temperature of 165 degrees F, verified by a food thermometer. Do not rely on cooking time; always use a thermometer. Cross-contamination is another concern with raw poultry. Always wash hands before and after handling raw meat, and wash counters, the sink, and utensils after they have been in contact with uncooked meat.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours of exposure. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can last up to a week. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those in high risk groups such as small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.