SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Health officials urged consumers to cook chicken
thoroughly and take other precautions after an 18-state salmonella outbreak
that has made hundreds sick in recent months.
A public health alert was issued for raw chicken packaged at three Foster
Farms facilities in California as some 278 people have fallen ill since
strains of Salmonella Heidelberg were first detected in March, the United
States Department of Agriculture said in a statement Monday.
The strains were associated with chicken distributed to retail outlets in
California, Oregon and Washington state, the USDA said. The illnesses have
been predominantly in California but the salmonella has reached people from
18 states, the statement said.
The outbreak appears to have begun in March and the USDA was notified of the
illnesses in July, said Dan Engeljohn of the USDA’s Food Safety and
Inspection Service. Investigators had a difficult time pinpointing the
source of the illnesses, Englejohn said.
A spokesman for Foster Farms said no recall was in effect and that the
infections were caused by eating chicken that was undercooked or improperly
handled. The three facilities that packaged the chicken were all in
California’s Central Valley -- one in Livingston and two in Fresno.
The USDA has not directly linked the outbreak of illnesses to a specific
product or production period. The USDA mark on suspect packages would read:
P6137, P6137A and P7632.
State health officials were not planning a recall, but said it is essential
that chicken be cooked to 165 degrees.
“This is the important public health issue,” Anita Gore, spokeswoman for the
California Department of Public Health. “Chicken can carry bacteria, and
chicken needs to be fully cooked.”
Gore also said people need to thoroughly wash their hands after handling raw
meat, and anyone who believes they were infected and is showing symptoms
like diarrhea and abdominal cramps should contact doctors immediately.
Salmonella is a pathogen that contaminates meat during slaughter and
processing, and is especially common in undercooked chicken.
The Centers for Disease Control, which monitors the microbes that signal
multi-state outbreaks of food poisoning, was working with a barebones staff
because of the federal government shutdown, with all but two of the 80
staffers that normally analyze foodborne pathogens furloughed. It was not
immediately clear whether the shortage affected the response to the