After 278 people, most of them in California, have been sickened in a continuing salmonella outbreak, federal agriculture officials issued a health alert Monday for Foster Farms chicken.
There’s concern that raw chicken produced by three Foster Farms plants located in California is associated with illnesses cause by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.
In 18 states, 278 illnesses have been reported, according to the USDA.
“The investigations indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken and other brand chicken produced at Foster Farms plants are the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections,” the agency stated in a news release.
“Epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials” linked the illnesses to Foster Farms chicken, the USDA stated.
Foster Farms emphasized that no recall was in effect, saying its products were safe if handled properly and fully cooked to at least 165 degrees.
“Foster Farms has instituted a number of additional food safety practices, processes and technology throughout company facilities that have already proven effective in controlling Salmonella in its Pacific Northwest operations earlier this year,” the company said on its website.
The outbreak has not been linked to specific products or production dates, the USDA stated. Consumers can check if their Foster Farms raw chicken products came from any of the three facilities involved by finding one of these codes inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package:
Products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington, according to the USDA.
Food contaminated with salmonella can cause those who consume it to contract the foodborne illness salmonellosis. The infection can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and people with HIV infection or those undergoing chemotherapy, the USDA stated.
Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight hours to three days of consumption. Chills, headache, nausea and vomiting can last up to seven days.