Foster Farms Chicken: Salmonella Contamination, NO Recall

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A farmer is not able to tell if a chicken has salmonella, as chickens do not show any symptoms. Image by Thegreenj.

Farmers can’t tell if a chicken has salmonella, as chickens do not show any symptoms. Image by Thegreenj

Three chicken processing plants, owned by Foster Farms, have been linked to cases of salmonella poisoning. These three California facilities have remained open despite 278 cases of salmonella poisoning. According to the NY Times, 80 percent of these cases are in California, but the others span across 18 states.

This is not the first time Foster Farms has been linked to salmonella, in fact, just recently this past July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked 134 cases to Foster Farms. These cases dated back to June 2012 and 33 people required hospitalization.

The surprising part of all of this, is that these three plants remain open and working, despite the salmonella outbreak.

Salmonella-Contaminated Chicken Farms: Open for Business?

Earlier this week, regulators threatened to shut down Foster Farms, but left them open. On Thursday, October 10, 2013, the Agricultural Department said that Foster Farms has made,“immediate substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations,” according to the NY York Times. Inspectors will continue to monitor and inspect the poultry for the next three months. The outbreak began in March and reports of illnesses have been reported in the last two weeks.

This particular strain of salmonella that people have contracted by eating Foster Farms chicken has left almost half (42 percent) in the hospital, which is about double the normal rate for salmonella poisoning. Making matters worse, this strain of salmonella is resistant to many antibiotics.

No Chicken Recalls

Despite the fact that this is the second time Foster Farms has been linked to salmonella poisoning and that this particular strain is resistant to antibiotics, neither Foster Farms nor the U.S. Government are issuing a recall of the chicken.

According to Foster Farm’s website, since the Department of Health isn’t making them recall the chicken, they’re continuing to sell and produce as usual.

The CDPH has not requested Foster Farms to recall chickens because, with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption. 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 present. Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume.”

Chickens can become infected with salmonella at any point during their lives. Image by HerbertT

Chickens can become infected with salmonella at any point during their lives. Image by HerbertT

Where Salmonella Infection Come From?

Sometimes chickens can have salmonella in their intestinal tract. The chicken’s fecal matter is then contaminated with salmonella. Other animals and chickens can get infected with salmonella when they eat contaminated feed, or when they peck at the soil that is contaminated. So how does salmonella go from the intestinal tract of a chicken to your dinner plate? The carcass of the chicken (breast, thigh, etc) can become contaminated with fecal matter during slaughtering, according to Oklahoma State University.

Chicken Dangers: Cook Thoroughly and Wash Carefully if You Choose Potentially-contaminated Chicken

Salmonella poisoning can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and fever within a few days of eating contaminated chicken. If you have a weakened immune system, you may need hospitalization to treat the illness.

To help prevent salmonella poisoning, you should make sure your chicken is thoroughly cooked – to 165 degrees Fahrenheit – wash all kitchen utensils such as knives, cutting boards with soap and water, and wash your hands with soap and water after preparing raw chicken.

Resources:

Foster Farms. Foster Farms And FSIS Reach Agreement, California Plants Remain Open. (2013). Accessed October 11, 2013.

NY Times. Chicken Plants in Salmonella Outbreak Can Stay Open. (2013). Accessed October 11, 2013.

Oklahoma State University. That is a good question – Salmonella and Poultry. Accessed October 11, 2013.

Washington Post. Salmonella stays with chickens, from birth to kitchen. (2011). Accessed October 11, 2013.

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