New cases associated with an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infection continue to be reported in the USA. The outbreak is linked to Foster Farms brand chicken and was first identified nearly three months ago. The USDA issued a Public Health Alert for Foster Farms chicken on 7 October.
By 18 December, at least 416 people had been affected by the outbreak in 23 states, plus Puerto Rico. Nearly 40% of those taken ill have required hospital treatment and around 13% have developed blood infections. This figure is unusually high for a Salmonella outbreak and 5% is more typical. Seven different strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been isolated and linked to the current outbreak and many of the isolates were found to be resistant to more than one antibiotic.
Foster Farms has not initiated a recall of its chicken, as Salmonella contamination is not considered to be unusual in raw poultry and good hygiene practice and thorough cooking before consumption can eliminate the risk. However, A Costco store in California did recall cooked rotisserie chicken products that were linked to a cluster of cases within the main outbreak, possibly as a result of cross contamination during preparation.
Foster Farms also made immediate significant changes to its slaughtering and processing procedures to reduce the contamination risk and allow for continued operation.
More information on this outbreak can be found here.