Foster Farms issued a chicken recall Thursday over products linked to an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella. The recall comes more than a year after people started getting sick.
The U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA) implicated the California chicken producer in the salmonella outbreak, according to The Huffington Post. Investigators directly linked Foster Farms boneless-skinless chicken breast to a case of Salmonella Heidelberg. The antibiotic-resistant strains has sickened 500 people in the past 16 months and led to pressure for federal action against the company.
In response to the USDA's findings, Foster Farms issued a recall for 170 chicken products that came from its facilities in Fresno, California, in March. The USDA explained that its investigators first learned of the salmonella case June 23 and the recall was issued as soon as a direct link could be confirmed.
The chicken recalled by Foster Farms have a "use or freeze by" date of between March 21 and March 29. They have been distributed to California, Hawaii, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Alaska.
Products included in the Foster Farms chicken recall includes drumsticks, thighs, chicken tenders, and livers. Most of the products are sold under the Foster Farms label, but others have the labels FoodMaxx, Kroger, Safeway, Savemart, Valbest, and Sunland. No fresh products in grocery stores are involved.
USA Today notes that the recall is the first in the ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to the company's chicken. Of the 574 people sickened in the outbreak, 37 percent have been hospitalized, according to CDC statistics. There are seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg involved in the outbreak, which was first reported in March 2013. Illnesses have been reported in 27 states so far.
Salmonella is known to be present in U.S. poultry. Under USDA rules, up to 7.5 percent of chicken carcasses in a plant may test positive for the bacteria. Ira Bill, Foster Farms' director of communication, explained that the company embarked on a plan to lower salmonella rates in its poultry, which it believes it has down to 5 percent.
To ensure safety, consumers should always wash everything that comes into contact with raw poultry. Brill added that poultry should always be cooked to 165 degrees using a meat thermometer.
Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler praised Foster Farms for issuing the recall, saying, "I commend both Foster Farms and USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service for doing the right thing for food safety. Recalling product is both embarrassing and hard, but is the right thing to do for your customers."
Along with the chicken recall, Foster Farms has also recently put new measures in place to improve safety on the farms where the birds are raised. It has also raised sanitation requirements in its plants.