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Salmonella outbreak from chicken is being tracked: Check your packages

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Salmonella outbreak source from chicken still unknown, but being tracked by government.

It's finally happened and we have been warned. There is an outbreak of salmonella being tracked, some of which is antibiotic resistant. The illnesses come at a time when the government's disease tracking capability had been shut down.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington said "This outbreak shows that it is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs,and for government websites to go dark.

The outbreak of salmonella has affected 18 states and is linked to 3 California facilities owned by Foster Farms who have said in a press release they are working with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

According to a 2009 Consumer Report, over two thirds of fresh, whole broilers purchased in stores across the United States were infected with either salmonella or campylobacter bacteria, the leading causes of foodborne illness.

Among the name brands tested that were Foster Farms, Perdue, and Tyson.

Chickens are commonly given antibiotics to treat infections. There has been many questions raised about the filth on chicken farms that makes the practice even necessary. Banned antibiotics that contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans have also been found in chicken feed.

The current outbreak that has hospitalized victims in California contains several strains of salmonella Heidelberg that are antibiotic resistant - meaning the infection will be hard to treat in those patients.

There are 7 strains of the salmonella bacterium that have been identified and implicated for sickening mostly Californians.

Another salmonella outbreak was linked to Foster Farms chicken in Oregon and Washington in 2012 that sickened 134 people in 13 states, the CDC reported this year.

The CDC has called experts back to help track the salmonella outbreak.

According to an FSIS statement, the contaminated chicken products came mainly from California, Washington and Oregon retailers and bear the numbers:

  • “P6137”
  • “P6137A”
  • “P7632”

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The numbers can be found inside the USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the packages.

It's important to note there has been no recall of the chicken because the source of contamination hasn't been absolutely determined.

The salmonella alert follows the illness of 278 people. The FSIS says the food poisoning is spreading however.

Symptoms of salmonellosis

Salmonella is a common foodborne illness that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever within 8 to 72 hours of becoming infected.

The condition can be deadly for infants, elders and those with compromised immunity, such as patients taking chemotherapy or HIV treated individuals.

Safe handling is crucial

The only way to stop foodborne illness is to ensure meats are cooked thoroughly, which the FSIS is emphasizing. It's also important when cooking meat to avoid hand to mouth contact, keep meats and other refrigerated items separate, discard old food and keep kitchen countertops and utensils clean.

Make sure your refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees or cooler to slow bacterial growth on food. Freezer's should be zero degrees or lower.

Use a meat thermometer when cooking chicken, which should be 165° F before it is consumed.

In 2011, there was one death from salmonella tainted ground turkey that sickened at least 77 people.

Check your packages of raw chicken for product identification. If you have food safety questions, contact the FSIS. There is also a virtual representative at askKaren.gov. 24 hours a day.