U.S. CDC says salmonella outbreak from
Foster Farms' chicken appears over
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[August 01, 2014]
By P.J. Huffstutter
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A salmonella outbreak
linked to California-based poultry producer Foster Farms' contaminated
chicken appears to be over, more than 17 months after it began, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
The salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, which public health
investigators say began on March 1, 2013, and ended July 11 this
year, made 634 people sick in 29 states and Puerto Rico, the agency
Scientists identified seven strains of the bacteria in the outbreak,
including some that were resistant to antibiotics used to treat
humans for illnesses other than salmonella.
"Epidemiologic, laboratory and trace-back investigations conducted
by local, state and federal officials indicated that consumption of
Foster Farms brand chicken was the source of this outbreak of
Salmonella Heidelberg infections," the CDC said in a statement.
No deaths were reported. Of the cases reported, 38 percent of the
people were hospitalized - a higher rate than in a typical
salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, investigators said.
For more than a year, the outbreak has roiled both the company and
federal regulators in a public health controversy that put a
critical spotlight on Foster Farms' food-safety practices. Critics
also questioned USDA investigators' apparent struggles to connect
the dots between extremely ill consumers and chicken produced by one
of the nation's largest chicken companies.
Last year, the company said it began implementing a new $75 million
food safety program to reduce salmonella contamination throughout
the company, from farm to slaughterhouse.
"Foster Farms remains committed to continuing its progress and
leading the industry in food safety," the company told Reuters in a
Yet for much of the outbreak, the company publicly denied its
chicken was to blame for making people sick. Proper cooking should
have killed any salmonella on its meat, the company has said.
In early July, the company announced a limited recall of chicken
produced at its three plants in central California. Now, according
to the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined that "measures undertaken
by the firm to prevent salmonella contamination of raw chicken have
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The news came on the same day the U.S. Department of Agriculture
announced it will modernize its decades-old inspection methods for
poultry, in an attempt to crack down on food-borne illness such as
As part of this effort, the agency said, USDA's FSIS will require
all poultry companies to take measures to prevent salmonella and
campylobacter contamination, rather than addressing contamination
after it occurs.
"The United States has been relying on a poultry inspection model
that dates back to 1957 ... The system we are announcing today
imposes stricter requirements on the poultry industry and places our
trained inspectors where they can better ensure food is being
processed safely," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
(Reporting By P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago. Additional reporting by
Ros Krasny in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Ken Wills)
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