The United States Department of Agriculture has issued a public health alert regarding raw chicken products produced by three facilities of Foster Farms. The alert comes after hundreds of people who have consumed the products fell ill. The chicken was packaged at three different facilities in California. The most current estimates indicate 278 people have fallen ill from consuming the chicken. In a statement, the USDA said strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with the chicken, which was distributed through retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State.
The Salmonella outbreak has now reached into 18 states, but the majority of the illnesses have been in California. The outbreak apparently started back in March, with the USDA being notified about the illnesses in July. Investigators have had difficulty pinpointing the source of the illnesses.
Foster Farms has indicated through a spokesperson that there is no recall in effect. They said that the infections have been caused by eating chicken that was undercooked or not properly handled. The USDA has not directly linked the outbreak to a specific product or period of production. The USDA mark on suspected packages would read P6137, P6317A and P7632. State health officials have not planned a recall, but have indicated it is essential to cook chicken to at least 165 degrees.
Any chicken can carry bacteria, thus it needs to be fully cooked. After handling raw meat, hands need to be cooked thoroughly, and anyone who thinks that they may be infected by salmonella, showing symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps, should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Salmonella is a pathogen that infects meat during slaughtering and processing. It is most common in chicken that is undercooked.
This is not the only report of illnesses from food being infected by pathogens in recent weeks. Farm Fresh Foods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recently had to throw out between 19,000 and 20,000 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products, such as ham and chicken salads. Those products were reportedly infected with listeria, which can cause severe stomach ailment symptoms.
With the government shutdown, many workers who handle such projects have been furloughed, but those who are still working are focusing on things such as salmonella, listeria and E. coli, which could result in multiple illnesses across the country.