September 23, 2018

Foster Farms Salmonella Chicken Outbreak at 621 Ill

The CDC has updated their investigation into the multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to Foster Farms chicken. The case count now stands at 621 ill in 29 states and Puerto Rico. Thirty-six percent of patients have been hospitalized. Most ill persons live in California. With the multiplier used for Salmonella infections since they are so underreported, at least 18,800 people have been sickened in this outbreak.

Foster Farms Salmonella Chicken Outbreak 7514

Patients are sick with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg; four of those are resistant to more than one antibiotic. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are associated with increased risk of hospitalization; and in fact, the hospitalization rate for this outbreak is almost double the usual number for Salmonella infections. Thirteen percent of patients have developed blood infections as a result of this illness; usually only 5% of Salmonella patients develop this serious complication.

The case count by state is as follows: Alabama (1), Alaska (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (25), California (480), Colorado (9), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Florida (4), Georgia (1), Hawaii (1), Idaho (5), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Michigan (4), Missouri (5), Montana (1), North Carolina (1), Nevada (11), New Mexico (2), Oregon (17), Puerto Rico (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (13), Utah (6), Virginia (4), Washington (20), West Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (1). Additional cases were reported in Alabama (1), California (39), Oregon (3), Washington (3), and West Virginia (1). Fifteen of these cases were reported in June.

Among the 608 people interviewed, illness onset dates range from March 1, 2013 to June 15, 2014. The age range is from younger than 1 year to 93 years, with a median age of 18 years. Fifty percent of ill persons are male.

This outbreak has been ongoing since at least March 1, 2013. Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations indicate that Foster Farms chicken is the likely source of these infections. USDA identified one of the outbreak strains of bacteria in an intact sample of Foster Farms chicken from the home of an infected person. The chicken breasts had labeling information with the establishment and a specific production date.

On July 3, 2014, Foster Farms finally recalled an “undetermined” amount of chicken products based on that information. That recall was requested by the USDA. The government is concerned that the chicken, with production dates of March 8, 10, and 11, 2014, could still be in consumers’ freezers. Bur since this outbreak has been ongoing for at least 17 months, and chicken can be frozen up to a year, other Foster Farms products contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg are most likely still in consumers’ homes.

There was an increase in cases noted in February and March, but there has finally been a decline in the weekly number of illnesses since then. Still, treat all raw chicken you purchase as if it was contaminated. Cook it to 160°F as measured by a food thermometer, avoid cross-contamination, and wash your hands, utensils, countertops, and appliances well after handling raw chicken.

Comments

  1. jackson says:

    While I bought chicken around that time, I have no idea whether it was recalled or not, since I split the family pack into individual portions and don’t recall the codes. It is usually Foster Farms chicken. I’ll just have to see if I die!

    Why do we get told so much after the fact?

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