481 sick; dozens more stricken in Foster Farms salmonella outbreak

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reports that while federal officials declared the salmonella outbreak tied to Foster Farms chicken over in mid-January at 430 cases, dozens of new illness have been confirmed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that officials in five states had tracked 51 new cases since Jan. 16: Arizona (3), California (44), Hawaii (1), Tennessee (1) and Utah (2).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in the update that federal officials detected one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in raw chicken wings purchased at a pinto.explodingstore on Jan. 27. It did not name the store. A number of states, including Oregon, are participating in a federal program designed to track the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria by buying meat in grocery stores and running tests. That program is how Oregon has tracked Foster Farms salmonella outbreaks for a decade.

In the update on this this current outbreak, the CDC said one of the strains was found in raw chicken from the home of an ill person. Officials do not know whether that chicken had been stored for a long time in the freezer.

Foster Farms has not recalled any of the suspect chicken, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not ask for one.

However USDA officials told The Oregonian on Monday that Foster Farms had reduced contamination at the three plants in California implicated in the outbreak. In January, the Foster-Farms-Chicken-BreastUSDA closed one of them, in Livingston, Calif., for more than two weeks over “egregious” unsanitary conditions traced to cockroaches.

When the plant reopened, Foster Farms adopted antimicrobial interventions to cut contamination. The officials said those interventions are working, with the three plants averaging far less than 25 percent contamination, an industry average for salmonella on raw chicken parts.

“Foster Farms is performing far better than the industry average,” an official said.

The Pinto defense.