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Breaking News on Food Safety & Quality Control

Chicken suspected source of multistate salmonella outbreak

By Joe Whitworth , 18-Feb-2013

Chicken is the suspected source of an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened 124 people in 12 states.

Most of the ill persons have been reported from Washington (56) and Oregon (38) but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was not releasing the names of other states until it is determined how these illnesses are linked to this outbreak.

Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicate that consumption of chicken is the most likely source of this outbreak.

Washington and Oregon have identified Foster Farms brand chicken as the likely source of the infections in their states but no product recall has been initiated.

81% of people interviewed reported consuming chicken in the week before becoming ill.

Chicken as source?

Investigations are ongoing to determine the specific type and source of chicken that might be linked with illness, with a spike of illnesses being reported in September.

From 6 January 2013 to 4 June 2012, 124 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported.

The CDC said it is investigating with public health officials and the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS).

FSIS is currently conducting an investigation to determine the source of infections in the outbreak.

Ill persons range in age from less than one year to 94 years, with a median age of 23 years.

55% of ill people are female and among 97 persons with available information, 31 (32%) reported being hospitalized, said the CDC.

Foster Farms view

In a food safety statement on their website, Foster Farms said: “The most recent, independent testing by the USDA in 2012 found incidence levels of 0% Salmonella at all Foster Farms processing facilities in California and the Pacific Northwest, further validating the Foster Farms testing.”

It adds that the USDA considers levels below 5% to demonstrate exceptional microbiological control.

“Foster Farms reminds consumers that raw poultry should not be allowed to cross-contaminate other foods or food preparation surfaces.

“All raw poultry products should be prepared according to package guidelines and cooked to at least an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to guarantee that they have been fully cooked.”

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