The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert due to concerns that illness caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
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.
This public health alert is being issued after an estimated 278 illnesses were recently reported in 18 states, predominantly in California. The outbreak is continuing. 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with state health departments to monitor the outbreak while FSIS continues its investigation.
The investigation is ongoing and FSIS is prepared to take additional actions or expand the investigation based on new evidence.
Foster Farms issues a statement that said it was working with the FSIS and CDC to reduce incidence of Salmonella Heidelberg on raw chicken products produced at three company facilities in Central California.
“While the company, FSIS and CDC continue to investigate the issue, Foster Farms has instituted a number of additional food safety practices, processes and technology throughout company facilities that have already proven effective in controlling Salmonella in its Pacific Northwest operations earlier this year. No recall is in effect,” the company added.
"We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family-owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its near 80-year history," said Foster Farms President Ron Foster. "We deeply regret any foodborne illness that may be associated with any of our products. Food safety is at the very heart of our business. It is a continuous process of improvement. In addition to collaborating with FSIS and CDC, the company has retained national experts in epidemiology and food safety technology to assess current practices and identify opportunities for further improvement."
"Salmonella is naturally occurring in poultry and can be fully eradicated if raw product is properly handled and fully cooked," said Dr. Robert O'Connor, the company's food safety chief and head veterinarian. "All poultry producers strive to reduce bacterial presence, including Salmonella. We take food safety very seriously. When the incidence of illnesses linked to Salmonella increased, we wanted to know why and we have worked quickly to identify and implement additional controls. It is also important to reassure the public that the FSIS process has not been affected by the recent government shutdown."
Source: FSIS, Foster Farms