What Consumers Need to Know about Foster Farms Chicken
Foster Farms chicken was recently in the news after the USDA announced it had recorded 50 new cases of salmonella poisoning linked to the company’s chickens in the past two months. A report from Boston.com highlights important information consumers should know about the latest salmonella outbreak.
West Coast-based Outbreak
Since March of last year, nearly 600 cases of salmonella poisoning have been linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms. About 77 percent of those illnesses were reported in California. However, illness linked to the Foster Farms chicken has been reported in 27 states and Puerto Rico.
In 2013, both Costco and Kroger announced it was removing all Foster Farms chicken from its shelves. Neither the USDA nor Foster Farms has provided consumers with a comprehensive list of where its products are sold making it difficult for consumers to avoid the potentially dangerous chicken.
A History of Salmonella Illnesses
It’s also important for consumers to be aware that Foster Farms has a history of salmonella outbreaks. The company was linked to outbreaks in 2004, 2012, as well as the most recent outbreaks which began over a year ago.
The USDA most recently shut down a Foster Farm facility in January after inspectors found cockroaches in the plant. The agency also sent Foster Farms a letter in Oct. 2013 describing conditions where inspectors found “fecal matter on carcasses” and “poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary nonfood contact surfaces and direct product contamination.”
Foster Farms has said in the past week the company has instituted changes to reduce levels of salmonella and suggests the recent cases are the result of warm weather.
Salmonella Allowable on Raw Chicken
One of the challenges facing the USDA is that certain levels of salmonella are allowed on raw chicken. Because salmonella can be killed when chicken is cooked properly, salmonella on chicken is not illegal in the eyes of the law. In order to force a recall, the USDA would likely have to go through the courts.
Symptoms of Salmonella Poisoning
Consumers should be aware of the common symptoms of salmonella illness including diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Salmonella can be life-threatening to those with weakened immune systems.
The CDC believes that of the cases reported, about 20 to 30 times more cases exist which are mild enough to go unreported.
Consumers should handle chicken properly by washing hands, utensils, cutting boards, and counters before and after use. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and promptly chilled. It is also important that raw and cooked chicken come into contact with each other.