July 17, 2018

USDA FAQ About Foster Farms Costco Salmonella Chicken Outbreak

The USDA has released an FAQ about the Salmonella outbreak linked to chicken products made at three Foster Farms facilities. Fully cooked Costco rotisserie chicken products produced at Foster Farms have also been linked to this outbreak and were recalled earlier this week.

Salmonella Outbreak CaliforniaThe USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was first notified of a Salmonella outbreak on June 28, 2013. The public was not notified of this outbreak until October 7, 2013, when USDA issued a public health alert, but no recall. FSIS began an investigation in June, but didn’t begin intensified testing of Foster Farms raw chicken products until September 2013. At least 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico have been sickened in this outbreak. It’s important to remember that since Salmonella is vastly under-reported, with a public health multiplier of up to 30.3, it’s quite possible that almost 10,000 people have been sickened in this particular outbreak.

The difference between a recall and a public health alert is that the alert is used when “FSIS personnel have reason to believe that a meat or poultry product may be associated with human illnesses, but they cannot identify a specific product that is linked to the illnesses. In this case, FSIS did not have the evidence to make a legal case for a recall of product produced by Foster Farms.” Kroger did recall all Foster Farms raw chicken products made at the three plants implicated in this outbreak on its own.

USDA did threaten to close the three Foster Farms facilities (P-6137, P-6137A, and P-7632) that produced the contaminated chicken, but let Foster Farms remain open after they made a “corrective action plan”. FSIS says it will monitor the interventions and actions to ensure compliance as the outbreak continues. There has been no update in the outbreak case count for five days.

FSIS is reminding consumers to “properly handle raw poultry in a manner that prevents contamination from spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces.” But Foster Farms rotisserie chickens, which were supposedly cooked to 180 degrees F, have also been implicated in this outbreak and have been recalled from Costco store in San Francisco that sold them.

Costco officials say they are not sure why the cooked poultry sickened people. It’s possible that the bacteria produced toxins that are not affected by heat. It’s possible there was cross-contamination at Costco stores, or improper cooking or holding.

The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include fever, diarrhea that may be bloody, abdominal craps, headache, vomiting, nausea, and loss of appetite. They usually start 12 to 72 hours after exposure to contaminated food. Most people recover on their own within a week, but some become so sick they must be hospitalized, as has happened to 42% of patients in this particular outbreak.

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