Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened by salmonella found on raw chicken packaged by Foster Farms, according to an alert issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. While some USDA employees have been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, food safety inspectors at beef and poultry plants are still conducting routine inspections and investigating illness outbreaks.
Consumers can identify raw Foster Farm chicken products associated with the outbreak by looking for the following numbers on the package: P6137, P6137A, and P7632.
The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State, the USDA said, but no recall has been issued because the food safety service has been “unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.”
Instead, consumers should remember to handle all raw meat and poultry in a safe manner, cooking chicken thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F. They should also avoid cross contamination of raw chicken juices with other foods like fresh produce that won’t be cooked before consuming; for example, they should use separate cutting boards for preparing these foods.
Another tip recommended by food safety scientists: Don’t wash raw poultry before preparing it since that can foster the spread of bacteria.
“If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself,” said Drexel University food safety researcher Dr. Jennifer Quinlan in a new video campaign she launched to get people to stop rinsing raw chicken.
One of the most common food-borne illnesses, salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially for those with weak immune systems like the elderly, infants, or those taking chemotherapy drugs. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within one to three days after eating the contaminated food; they can last up to seven days and usually require no medical care beyond rest and fluids.