NBC News is reporting this afternoon on an investigation currently underway by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after 124 cases of salmonella poisoning reported in 12 states were linked to raw chicken produced by Foster Farms. The salmonella strain is a specific one; Salmonella Heidelberg.
The majority of the reported cases occurred in Washington state and Oregon. The illnesses were reported between June 4, 2012 and January 6, 2013. At least half of those infected were women and there were 31 hospitalizations. No deaths have been reported. Foster Farms is not recalling any products. In a prepared statement, Foster Farms said, "It is widely known that all raw chicken must be responsibly handled and properly prepared to ensure safety and quality." Foster Farms also stated that safety and quality were priorities. The CDC and the USDA are working with health officials to identify the source of the contamination.
According to the CDC, there are approximately 42,000 cases of salmonella poisoning annually in the United States. However, because many cases are not reported, the actual figure could be as much as 29 times higher. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea, which usually begin within 72 hours after infection. In some severe cases, patients can develop pain in their joints, eye irritation and painful urination. Joint pain, reactive arthritis, can last for a long period of time and can become chronic. Individuals with compromised immune symptoms, chronic illness such as diabetes, the elderly and children are particularly vulnerable.
When preparing raw poultry or meat products, care must be taken to prevent cross contamination of other foods. Always use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling or preparing raw poultry and meats. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching, and before touching anything else. Foster Farms says to always cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, which will kill any bacteria.
We will update information about this investigation as it becomes available.