Food Safety Magazine

News | March 4, 2014

CDC Reports Dozens More Illnesses in Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak

CDC Reports Dozens More Illnesses in Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak

Source: The Oregonian

Federal officials declared the salmonella outbreak tied to Foster Farms chicken over in mid-January at 430 cases. But since then dozens of new illness have been confirmed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that officials in five states had tracked 51 new cases since Jan. 16: Arizona (3), California (44), Hawaii (1), Tennessee (1) and Utah (2).

This is the first time people in Hawaii and Tennessee have been included in the outbreak, which started March 1 last year. All told, at least 481 people have been sickened in 25 states and Puerto Rico. The most recent cases date to Feb. 11.

The CDC said in the update that federal officials detected one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in raw chicken wings purchased at a store on Jan. 27. It did not name the store. A number of states, including Oregon, are participating in a federal program designed to track the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria by buying meat in grocery stores and running tests. That program is how Oregon has tracked Foster Farms salmonella outbreaks for a decade.

In the update on this this current outbreak, the CDC said one of the strains was found in raw chicken from the home of an ill person. Officials do not know whether that chicken had been stored for a long time in the freezer.

Foster Farms has not recalled any of the suspect chicken, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not ask for one.

However, USDA officials told The Oregonian on Monday that Foster Farms had reduced contamination at the three plants in California implicated in the outbreak. In January, the USDA closed one of them, in Livingston, CA, for more than two weeks over "egregious" unsanitary conditions traced to cockroaches.

When the plant reopened, Foster Farms adopted antimicrobial interventions to cut contamination. The officials said those interventions are working, with the three plants averaging far less than 25 percent contamination, an industry average for salmonella on raw chicken parts.

"Foster Farms is performing far better than the industry average," an official said.


Editor's Note: The "federal program" referred to above is the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), a joint initiative among the FDA, USDA, and CDC that monitors antimicrobial susceptibility among enteric bacteria from humans, retail meats, and food animals. The major bacteria currently under surveillance are Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, and Enterococcus. NARMS also collaborates with antimicrobial resistance monitoring systems in other countries, to work towards international harmonization of testing and reporting. The NARMS 2012-2016 Strategic Plan can be downloaded here (pdf, 79 KB).