July 18, 2018

Questions About Foster Farms Chicken Salmonella Outbreak

Earlier this year, there were a few vague announcements about a Salmonella outbreak associated with Foster Farms chicken. In March, the CDC announced an outbreak that sickened at least 128 people in 13 states. Most of the ill persons lived on the West coast, but there were people sick on the East coast as well. At the time, the report stated that “Foster Farms brand chicken was the most likely source of the infections.” There was no recall, either from the company or from the USDA.

Salmonella Outbreak CaliforniaThe outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg was found in four intact samples of Foster Farms chicken taken from the homes of three patients. That announcement said that “an investigation by USDA-FSIS is ongoing.”

A final report was issued on July 12, 2013, in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and another through the CDC. That report, titled “Outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to a Single Poultry Producer” ┬ástated that 134 people were sickened in 13 states. Thirty-three people were hospitalized as a result of that outbreak. Most of the ill persons lived in Oregon and Washington. NARMS isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg from Foster Farms retail chicken samples purchased in Washington and Oregon in October 2013.

And in that report, it was stated that “USDA-FSIS sent an incident investigation team to one of the Foster Farms slaughter establishment; the results of that investigation have not been finalized.” We have been unable to find any record of the results.

Now another outbreak has been announced, after 278 people have been sickened. We have these questions. Why is there no recall issued, and why was no recall issued last winter? Is this the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg that caused the outbreak last winter? Why are there no more details about which products are associated with this outbreak? Why are the states involved in the outbreak not listed? And why are the CDC and Foster Farms taking the attitude that consumers are responsible for keeping themselves safe when pathogenic bacteria are being introduced into their homes? A call to the contact number on the FSIS announcement said they were not answering email or voicemail because of the government shutdown.

Of course everyone should follow good food safety practices. But the law states that no company can sell a product contaminated with enough pathogenic bacteria to make a person sick. And while we understand that the government shutdown may be contributing to the lack of information, this outbreak is, so far, following the same strange pattern of the last outbreak.

The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal pains and cramps, headache, and muscle pains. If you have eaten Foster Farms chicken and have experienced these symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as possible. While most people recover from salmonellosis, some become sick enough to be hospitalized, and some people die.

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