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Foster Farms Chicken Blamed For Salmonella Outbreak in 18 States

WASHINGTON—Foster Farms is working with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Centers for Disease Control to issue a public health alert after reports that 278 illnesses in 18 states have been caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.

Foster Farms has not issued a recall of the raw chicken because it says the products are safe to eat if properly handled and fully cooked. The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington state.

The outbreak is continuing, and the investigations indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken and other brand chicken produced at Foster Farms plants are the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections.

Illnesses were linked to Foster Farms brand chicken through epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials. The CDC is partnering with state health departments to monitor the outbreak while FSIS continues its investigation.

At this point in the investigation, FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period. Raw products from the facilities in question bear one of the establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package: “P6137", “P6137A" and “P7632". The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington state.

In its public health alter, FSIS reminded consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food-safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry. In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the product in order to attain 165°F internal temperature.

This is not the first time Foster Farm chicken has been implicated in a Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak. A report released by CDC on July 10, 2013, concluded Foster Farms chicken was the likely source of a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections that sickened 134 people and hospitalized 33 in 13 states between June 4, 2012 and May 6, 2013.
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