USDA issues health alert for Foster Farms chicken packaged at 3 Calif. facilities after illnesses

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing a public health alert for raw chicken packaged at three Foster Farms facilities in California after 278 people have fallen ill.

The USDA says that strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with chicken distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington state.

The Salmonella outbreak has spread to 18 states, though most of the illnesses have been reported in California.

A spokesman for Foster Farms says no recall is in effect and that the infections were caused by eating undercooked or improperly handled chicken.

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.

Cooking chicken to 165 degrees kills the Salmonella bacteria.

The CDC and USDA-FSIS also recommend consumers follow these food safety tips to prevent Salmonella infection from raw poultry:

Clean

  • -Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • -Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to prepare the next item.
  • -Food contact surfaces may be sanitized with a freshly made solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Separate

  • -Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
  • -If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • -Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Cook

  • -Cook poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer.

Chill

  • -Chill food promptly and properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours (or 1 hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees).
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