The number of illnesses related to Foster Farms contaminated with Salmonella is now reported to be 317 cases Foster Farms has not yet conducted a recall. Some are predicting that this may face higher liabilities due to their inaction. It has already had an impact on their sales. FSIS did issue an FAQ (included below), but it would have been nice if they specifically answered the question why they did not request a recall.
This will be an interesting case to follow in that Costco has issued a recall, but Foster Farms has not.
USDA News Release
California Wholesale Store Recalls Rotisserie Chicken Products Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2013 – Costco’s El Camino Real store in San Francisco, Calif., is recalling an additional 14,093 units of rotisserie chicken products that may be contaminated with a strain of Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. This is in addition to the 9,043 units that were recalled on Oct. 12.
The products subject to recall are:
13,455 “Kirkland Signature Foster Farms” rotisserie chickens
638 total units of “Kirkland Farm” rotisserie chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters, and rotisserie chicken salad.
The products were sold directly to consumers in a Costco located at 1600 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, Calif., between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15, 2013.
Costco and the California Department of Public Health discovered through a follow up investigation to the previous recall that additional product should be recalled. No illnesses have been reported in association with the product being recalled today.
The initial recall was initiated on Oct. 12, 2013 due to concerns about a group of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses that may be associated with the consumption of rotisserie chicken products prepared in and purchased at the Costco El Camino Real store. The PFGE pattern (0258) associated with this outbreak is reported rarely in the United States. FSIS, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the California Department of Public Health and the County of San Mateo Public Health Department, determined through epidemiologic and traceback investigations that there is a link between the Costco El Camino Real rotisserie chicken products and this illness outbreak. At this time, it appears that the problem may be the result of cross-contamination after the cooking process in the preparation area. FSIS is continuing to work with CDC, public health partners in California and Costco on the investigation. FSIS will continue to provide information as it becomes available.
This group of illnesses is part of a larger cluster of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses that are known to be multi-drug resistant. For more information about the larger cluster, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/index.html.
FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. Costco has already taken steps to contact every customer who purchased rotisserie chicken products. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/current-recalls-and-alerts.
Consumers and media with questions regarding the recall should contact Costco at (800) 774-2678.
FSIS reminds consumers to properly handle raw poultry in a manner to prevent contamination from spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces.
FSIS further reminds consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry. In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the product in order to attain 165 °F internal temperature, consumers should be aware that actual time may vary depending on the cooking method (broiling, frying, or grilling) and the temperature of the product (chilled versus frozen) so it is important that the final temperature of 165 °F must be reached for safety. Please do not rely on the cooking time for each side of the product, but use a food thermometer.
All poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F as determined by a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.
Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. “Ask Karen” live chat services are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/report-a-problem-with-food.
CDC News Release
Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to Foster Farms Brand Chicken
Posted October 11, 2013 03:45 PM EThttp://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/
· Read the Advice to Consumers »
· As of October 11, 2013, a total of 317 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 20 states and Puerto Rico.
o 42% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
o Most ill persons (73%) have been reported from California.
· Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections.
· On October 7, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) issued a Public Health Alert due to concerns that illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg is associated with chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
o On October 7, 2013, USDA-FSIS notified Foster Farms of the intent to withhold the marks of inspection and suspend the assignment of inspectors at the three facilities in California unless the firm submitted plans to prevent the persistent recurrence of Salmonella contamination.
o On October 10, 2013, USDA-FSIS announced that Foster Farms submitted and implemented immediate substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations.
o This investigation is ongoing. USDA-FSIS is prepared to take additional actions or expand the investigation based on new evidence.
· The outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. This antibiotic resistance may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.
· It is not unusual for raw poultry from any producer to have Salmonella bacteria. CDC and USDA-FSIS recommend consumers follow food safety tips to prevent Salmonella infection from raw poultry produced by Foster Farms or any other brand.
USDA News Release
Frequently Asked Questions - Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Chicken Products Produced at Three Foster Farms Facilities
Q: When did FSIS first learn of the Salmonella outbreak?
On June 28, FSIS was notified of a Salmonella outbreak in four states resulting in 18 illnesses.
Q: What was FSIS’ first course of action when the agency learned of the outbreak?
At that time, FSIS began its own investigation, following up on specific information provided via case-patient interviews or shopper card data provided, which indicated a likely association between illnesses and patients’ exposure to products produced by three Foster Farms establishments located in California. In September, FSIS began intensified testing of raw chicken products at the three Foster Farms plants. By the beginning of October, FSIS had completed the testing of virtually all samples taken as part of the investigation.
Q: What actions were taken beyond the initial investigation and the intensified testing?
On October 7, 2013, FSIS issued a Public Health Alert and a Notice of Intended Enforcement Action and thereby took an affirmative step to address Foster Farms' process for preparing product. Taken together, these actions represented the most effective course of action based on the available facts. In response to FSIS action, Foster Farms initiated a corrective action plan and will continue to implement additional food safety measures in the coming weeks. As Foster Farms continues production, FSIS will monitor their interventions and actions through intensified testing to ensure compliance.
Q: What is the difference between a Recall and a Public Health Alert?
A recall is a company’s action to remove product from commerce to protect the public from consuming adulterated or misbranded products. Although it is a firm’s decision to recall product, FSIS coordinates with the firm to ensure the firm has properly identified, and then removed, the recalled product from commerce. FSIS also verifies the effectiveness of the company’s recall activities. FSIS also notifies the public about product recalls by, in most instances, issuing a press release.
A Public Health Alert is used in situations where FSIS personnel have reason to believe that a meat or poultry product may be associated with human illnesses, but they cannot identify a specific product that is linked to the illnesses.
When public health is threatened by meat or poultry products, FSIS has an obligation to act in a manner that is consistent with the evidence before it. In this case, FSIS did not have the evidence to make a legal case for a recall of product produced by Foster Farms. With the evidence at hand, FSIS acted to inform consumers through the issuance of a Public Health Alert.
Q: What is FSIS advising consumers to do with Foster Farms poultry that they have already purchased?
FSIS reminds consumers to properly handle raw poultry in a manner that prevents contamination from spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces.
It important that consumers follow package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry. In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the product in order to attain 165 °F internal temperature, consumers should be aware that actual time may vary depending on the cooking method (broiling, frying, or grilling) and the temperature of the product (chilled versus frozen) so it is important that the final temperature of 165 °F must be reached for safety. It is important to use a food thermometer to properly obtain the internal temperature.
Q: Has the government shutdown affected FSIS’ ability to respond to this Salmonella outbreak?
No. FSIS is committed to Food Safety and this commitment continues in spite of the government shutdown. The agency’s 8,000 inspectors remain on the job and have been fulfilling their regular inspection duties. Furthermore, our laboratories have remained operational, allowing the agency to continue testing for Salmonella and other pathogens. FSIS will continue to monitor the situation with Foster Farms products and provide additional information to the public as necessary.
Costco expands recall of Salmonella-tainted Foster Farms chicken
Costco has expanded its recall of Foster Farms chicken over Salmonella contamination in a nationwide outbreak that's sickened more than 300 people.
The Kirkland, Wash., company is pulling nearly 13,500 rotisserie chickens and nearly 640 units of chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters and rotisserie chicken salad sold under its own label between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15 from its store in South San Francisco, Calif.
This recall comes in addition to one announced Saturday covering nearly 40,000 pounds of rotisserie chicken products sold between Sept. 11 and Sept. 23 from the same store. Costco's first recall was prompted by a cluster of illnesses linked to the roasted chicken. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in the recall notice that no known illnesses have been reported in connection with the second recall.
Costco's food safety manager Craig Wilson said the company cooks its chickens to 180 degrees to kill harmful bacteria. But apparently the chickens became contaminated after being roasted, according to the recall notice.
"At this time, it appears that the problem may be the result of cross-contamination after the cooking process in the preparation area," the notice said.
Costco is the only company to have formally recalled the contaminated chicken, which have sickened nearly 320 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico with antibiotic resistant strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. More than 40 percent have been hospitalized and about 14 percent of those sickened have developed blood infections, Dr. Chris Braden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention food-borne disease division, told The Oregonian.
Those rates are much higher than usual and illustrate the severity of the illnesses. Braden said of the seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, three are resistant to multiple antibiotics and two are resistant to two common medications.
Federal officials, who've been tracking the outbreak since March, identified three Foster Farms central California plants as the culprit. When the USDA threatened to shut them down, Foster Farms bolstered is food safety treatments. But the company has not issued a recall.
In an initial statement, it blamed the illnesses on undercooked chicken. Salmonella is killed at 165 degrees. But even when cooked, cross contamination poses a serious problem as the Costco recall illustrates. The company, which operates professional kitchens, is well known for having high food safety standards.
-- Lynne Terry