New information about a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds. The USDA has linked the outbreak to three processing plants in California operated by Foster Farms. Consumer Reports is raising concern about the response to the outbreak.
According to the CDC's website, the outbreak has affected close 278 people in 17 states.
Consumer Reports learned of outbreak while conducting an ongoing testing program where they test meat and poultry for bacteria. When they were testing chicken produced at Foster Farms, they found a strain of salmonella in Foster Farms chicken samples. Consumer Reports notified Foster Farms, but a recall was never issued.
"Other companies have issued recalls for far fewer people getting sick. We think it's about time Foster Farms issue a recall," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan with Consumer Reports.
A map the CDC's website shows the infected states. Most cases are out West, but already we're seeing some cases pop in North Carolina, Arkansas and Florida.
"We think it's incredibly problematic that a recall has not been issued to date. We know this strain of bacteria is actually particularly severe, according to the CDC. It seems to be twice the rate of hospitalizations. It's has severely sickened a significant number of people," said Rangan.
The CDC's website says they're investigating. The USDA's Food and Safety Inspection Service issued a public health alert initially, but later determined Foster Farms to be at fault. An inspector with USDA said, "The sanitary conditions in the establishment under which the product is produced could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health."
The USDA told Foster Farms President, Ron Foster he has until tomorrow to tell them how he's going to fix the problems.
Foster posted this message on their website, "Food safety is – and always has been – at the very heart of our family business. On behalf of my family, I am sorry for any foodborne illness associated with Foster Farms chicken and for any concern this may have caused you. All of us at Foster Farms are continuing to work around the clock to fully address this situation and to ensure you have a safe and wholesome experience with our products.
The alert that regulators issued based on illnesses over the past seven months emphasizes the need to fully cook and properly handle raw poultry. Our facilities have always met and exceeded USDA standards. USDA continues to inspect and approve our chicken products as safe to consume.
As a further sign of our dedication, as soon as we were alerted to any concern, we brought in national food safety experts to assess our processes and have reinforced our processes with new technologies proven to be effective.
We have worked hard to earn your trust for more than 80 years, and I pledge to resolve these issues so you can continue to enjoy the very best chicken from my family to yours."
Raw products from the facilities in question bear one of the establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package:
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