A total of 416 people have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg as of December 18, 2013, reported from 23 states and Puerto Rico.
No deaths have been reported, but 39 percent of the infected people have been hospitalized. 74 percent of the ill people are reported to be from California.
Fourteen percent of the victims have developed blood infections as a result of their illness. Typically, only five percent of people with Salmonella infections develop blood infections.
On October 7, 2013, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) issued a Public Health Alert due to concerns that illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg is associated with chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
On October 10, 2013, USDA-FSIS announced that Foster Farms submitted and implemented immediate changes to their slaughter and processing procedures to allow for continued operations.
The USDA-FSIS is prepared to take additional actions or expand the investigation based on new evidence.
On October 12 and October 17, 2013, Costco’s El Camino Real store, located in South San Francisco, California recalled more than 23,000 units of rotisserie chicken products (including rotisserie chicken, rotisserie chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters and rotisserie chicken salad) due to possible Salmonella Heidelberg contamination. The products were sold directly to consumers in the Costco store between September 24, 2013 and October 15, 2013. According to the USDA-FSIS, the problem with possibly contaminated rotisserie chicken products at this Costco location may be the result of cross-contamination after the cooking process in the preparation area.
Testing conducted by the Washington State Public Health Laboratories identified one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in one leftover intact sample of raw Foster Farms chicken collected from an ill person’s home in Washington.
The strains of Salmonella Heidelberg associated with this outbreak are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. This resistance to antibiotics may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization.
While the use-by date has passed and these products are no longer available for retail sale, USDA-FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen in consumers’ freezers. Retailers and food service establishments should not serve them.
The products involved in the outbreak are identified by one of the three USDA mark of inspection numbers P6137, P6137A and P7632.
In addition to being recalled at Costco stores, Foster Farms chickens were pulled from the shelves of Kroger Co. stores, which also include Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers and others.
The president of Foster Farms apologized and announced that the company would address the problem by tidying up its facilities and pumping more antibiotics into the chickens. But federal law gives chicken producers a wide range when it comes to declaring recalls. The USDA states that chicken recalls are voluntary. Although the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that one million people a year become ill nationally from salmonella and it is the number one pathogen that leads to hospitalization, the bacteria is legally regarded as a common contaminant, which they believe can be controlled by proper cooking.
Check your freezer to be sure you do not have a Foster Farms frozen bird waiting to be consumed. If so, either take back to the place of purchase or throw away! For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).