The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), yesterday, posted new data on its site “Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to Foster Farms Brand Chicken”. The outbreak of salmonellosis began in March and the CDC has received reports of 317 illnesses from 20 states. There have been no reported deaths but 42 percent of the patients have needed to be hospitalized.
Neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have issued recall notices for any Foster Farms products. The California Department of Public Health, on Oct. 9, defended its position in a press release, stating “with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption. Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director, is quoted as saying”Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present. Cooking chicken fully to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the bacteria that are present. Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume.”
Foster Farms is a family-owned business that was started in 1939. It presently employees over 12,000 people. The company produces a variety of poultry products, including raw chicken sold to consumers in grocery stores. The company touts its chicken as “100 percent natural with no added hormones or steroids.”
Implicated in the current outbreak are three processing facilities owned by Foster Farms in California, in Livingston and Fresno. Foster Farms states that USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel are on site every day. The company is adding improved food safety measures to its processing aimed at reducing the threat of contamination.
The Department of Agriculture joins the California Department of Public Health and Foster Farms in stressing the need for proper handling and cooking of raw chicken. The Partnership for Food Safety Education has these recommendations for consumers:
Whether grilling, broiling or roasting, here are a few important basics to keep top of mind when preparing chicken or other poultry:
- wash hands before and after handling poultry
- completely thaw poultry before cooking so that it cooks more evenly. Defrost in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never defrost food at room temperature! Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
- cook poultry until it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Use a food thermometer – you can’t tell it is cooked by looking!
- never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw poultry or meat.
- rinsing poultry under water is not a safety step! Cooking to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F is what will kill pathogens that could cause illness.