A multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections has been officially linked to Foster Farms chicken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, prompting an immediate recall.
"FSIS now has conclusive evidence directly linking Foster Farms product produced on March 8, 10 and 11, 2014 to a Salmonella Heidelberg illness. FSIS is announcing a recall for the implicated product and is verifying the product is being removed from commerce. FSIS was notified on June 23 of the illness and took immediate steps to collect the product for testing and announced the recall as soon as a direct link was confirmed. Combating Salmonella remains a top priority for FSIS and we continue to take all steps within our authority to reduce foodborne illness," stated Adam Tarr of the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs.
The products subject to recall have the number “P6137,” P6137A” and “P7632” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The chicken products produced on March 8, 10 and 11, 2014, can have the brand name of Foster Farms, FoodMaxx, Kroger, Safeway, Valbest, or Sunland. These products were shipped to retail stores and distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. The list of products subject to recall can be found at www.fsis.usda.gov.
"At Foster Farms, our first concern is always the health and safety of the people who enjoy our products, and we stand committed to doing our part to enhance the safety of our nation’s food supply," said the company in a released statement on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating the Salmonella outbreak since June 17, 2013. As of May 22, 2014, a total of 574 people have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg from 27 states and Puerto Rico. Thirty-seven percent of those infected have been hospitalized with no deaths reported. The outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have also been found to be resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. According to the CDC, the most ill (77 percent) were from California.
The recall comes after the FSIS was notified by the CDC of a Salmonella Heidelberg illness on June 23, 2014, associated with the consumption of a boneless skinless chicken breast product. Working in conjunction with CDC, FSIS determined that there is a link between boneless skinless chicken breast products from Foster Farms and this illness. Until this point, there had been no direct evidence that linked the illnesses associated with this outbreak to a specific product or production lot.
According to the FSIS, evidence that is required for a recall includes obtaining case-patient product that tests positive for the same strain of Salmonella that caused the illness, packaging on product that clearly links the product to a specific facility and a specific production date, and records documenting the shipment and distribution of the product from purchase point of the case-patient to the originating facility.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.
The recall comes six months after an enforced suspension when FSIS inspectors found cockroaches on five different occasions in the Livingston Foster Farms plant since September 2013. Each time the company was cited for noncompliance as the cockroaches were found during production near a sink, sanitizer dispenser, on the floor and on a “grey plastic tub that is a direct product contact surface.”
The plant was reopened after measures were put into place to ensure that the Foster Farms preventative plan that was approved by the FSIS was fully implemented. In May, Foster Farms filed a lawsuit against Orkin LLC seeking damages for what the company called a failure to fulfill a cockroach-control contract.
Consumers with questions regarding the Foster Farms chicken product recall can contact the company’s Consumer Affairs hotline at (800) 338-8051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.