November 28, 2021

Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak: What’s Wrong With This Timeline?

The Salmonella outbreaks associated with Foster Farms chicken have a troubling timeline. Looking at the dates, it’s hard to tell if it’s one long outbreak or two, but all told  Foster Farms chicken has caused 472 lab confirmed cases of Salmonella poisoning since June 2012. And, because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that for every lab-confirmed case there are 29 others that go unreported, that means 13,688 people have been sickened by Foster Farms chicken in the last 16 months.

Raw Chicken BreastsLooking at the timeline, a couple of things stand out. For example, why did it take so long for health officials to inform the public?  With both outbreaks, it took about eight months from the time the first person became ill and the time the outbreak was announced.  And why was the first outbreak declared over in July, when the CDC had been tracking illnesses for the second, then announced outbreak for months? And why did Foster Farms learn about the outbreak months before the public?

Here are some of the key dates:

On February 14, 2013, the CDC announced (Outbreak 1) an outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken that had been going on for 8 months. At that time 124 people in 12 states were sick, but the CDC only disclosed the names of two states: Oregon and Washington. The names of 10 states where 30 people were ill were withheld. Foster Farms issued a terse statement, which it later removed form its website about why itdid not issue a recall.

On March 5, 2013, the CDC issued an update that listed all of the then 13 states involved in the outbreak. The update included information on antibiotic resistance and the mild disclaimer “It is not unusual for raw poultry from any producer to have Salmonella. This underscores the importance for consumers to follow food safety tips to help protect themselves and others from foodborne illness.”

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was notified, by the CDC,  of a cluster of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses.

On July 10, the CDC issued its final report on Outbreak 1.

On July 25, federal officials notified Foster Farms of the new outbreak

By September 30, the CDC was aware of 207 case patients in 15 states, but the pubic had not been informed.

On October 1, the government shutdown began.

On October 8,  while the shutdown was still ongoing, the CDC announced the outbreak which had, at that point, sickened 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico.


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