The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has agreed that three chicken processing plants in California linked to an on-going outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infection can continue production.
The outbreak has so far affected at least 317 people in 20 states, with 42% of the victims requiring hospital treatment. Seven different strains of S. Heidelberg have been isolated in association with the outbreak and epidemiological and microbiological evidence points to chicken from Foster Farms in California as the likely source.
Initially, the FSIS told Foster Farms that it would withhold marks of inspection at the company’s three plants in Livingston and Fresno unless plans to tackle persistent Salmonella contamination were drawn up. Foster Farms has since submitted plans to make immediate changes to slaughter and processing operations and the FSIS has therefore agreed that production can continue.
No recall of implicated raw chicken has been initiated. The California Department of Public Health has explained that it has not requested a recall because, “with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption.” However, the Costco El Camino Real store in San Francisco is recalling almost 40,000 pounds of rotisserie chicken products that have been linked to cases of illness that are part of the main outbreak.