October 14, 2019

Salmonella Outbreak at TN Prison Linked to Tyson Chicken

A Salmonella Heidelberg outbreakĀ in 2013 at a Tennessee correctional facility that was linked to mechanically separated Tyson chicken sickened nine people. Twenty-two percent of those sickened were hospitalized; no deaths were reported. All of the ill persons were incarcerated at a single correctional facility in the state.

SalmonellaTraceback and other investigations found that mechanically separated chicken produced by Tyson Foods was the source of the 2013 outbreak. Mechanically separated chicken is a paste-like meat product that is made by forcing meat through a sieve to separate bone from the edible part. The product then will have bacteria spread throughout it, similar to ground meats.

Since prisoners are literally a “captive audience”, it may be considered cruel and unusual punishment to serve them food that is contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented inmates in food poisoning outbreaks, said, “prisoners have no choice in the food they eat, so must be protected by the state and those who manage the facility’s kitchens. In addition, prisoners are sometimes not given reasonable and adequate medical care when they do get sick.”

Illness onset dates in this particular outbreak ranged from November 28, 2013 to November 29, 2013. The case patient age range was from 22 years to 50 years, with a median age of 37 years. Pulse field-gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, was used to identify case patients in this outbreak.

Tyson Foods recalled 33,840 pounds of mechanically separated chicken products that may have been contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria on January 10, 2014. The products were not available for consumer purchase in retail stores.

Two of the human isolates tested were multidrug-resistant, and seven were susceptible to all antibiotics tested. Resistance to some of these antibiotics may be associated with increased risk of serious illness, hospitalization, or development of an infection of the bloodstream. In fact, patients in outbreaks of resistant bacteria are often hospitalized at a higher rate.

There have been many food poisoning outbreaks at prisons and correctional facilities around the country. These facilities and others, such as schools and nursing homes, must take extra precautions to prevent foodborne illness and outbreaks of contagious diseases. If they do not they can be subject to lawsuits.

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