YONKERS, NY - As part of its ongoing testing program of the safety of meat and poultry in the food supply, Consumer Reports found a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in a Foster Farms chicken sample that matched one of the strains associated with the current and major foodborne illness outbreak.
The outbreak is currently associated with Foster Farms raw chicken products from processing plants in California according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Consumer Reports' one sample, purchased in California in July 2013, came from Foster Farms plant P-6137A, one of the three plants connected to the outbreak.
While Consumer Reports does not typically report findings from an individual test, the connection of the sample to the current outbreak prompted the organization to make this information public.
Despite nearly 300 illnesses reported in 17 states and a continuing outbreak, Foster Farms has not issued a recall.
"It is outrageous that Foster Farms has not issued a recall in the face of so many illnesses associated with their product. We are calling on Foster Farms and the retail outlets that sell Foster Farms to recall the chicken processed at these plants. Foster Farms has a responsibility to public health to take this step," says Dr. Urvashi Rangan, toxicologist and Executive Director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.
Companies have taken a far more proactive consumer stance and issued recalls for as few as 12 illnesses. In this case, the outbreak is of particular concern due to its severity, the fact that that the associated strains are resistant to multiple antibiotic drugs, and the length of time that the CDC have been tracking illnesses that are now linked to Foster Farms chicken.
"Telling consumers to not worry and cook their chicken thoroughly is simply inadequate and irresponsible. How many illnesses will they wait for before taking action?" adds Rangan.
What consumers can do…
Consumers who have purchased Foster Farms chicken should check their chicken package for the associated plant numbers, which are P-6137, P-6137A, and P-7632, which can be found on the package label. Consumers who are shopping for Foster Farms chicken, should avoid chicken from these plant numbers.
Consumers who believe they have been sickened by eating contaminated chicken should contact their local health authorities and provide any available information about the chicken. Consumers who have purchased any samples from the problematic plant numbers should dispose the chicken in order to protect themselves and their families.