The Foster Farms antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, now nearing 18 months running, may finally be over, this according to some wary health officials. It was only in January that officials made the same prediction – only to identify another 300 victims in the ensuing months. So far, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 634 confirmed victims across 29 states and Puerto Rico. These victims presented with symptoms of one of seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg between March 1, 2013, and July 11, 2014. The actual number of victims is likely in the thousands, with officials in California actively investigating at least 625 cases in that state alone and some experts predicting the actual number of victims nation-wide has exceeded 15,000.
Foster Farms, for its part, failed to put a stop to the outbreak by refusing to initiate a wide-scale recall of its product. Instead, Foster Farms continued to produce raw chicken at sites implicated in the outbreak and took only limited action when conclusive evidence arose to support the well-established trace-back investigations linking the victims to its product. The length of this outbreak, one of the nation’s longest running salmonella outbreaks, prompted many critics to accuse Foster Farms of putting profit above safety – for its part, Foster Farms has admitted the negative press has cost its bottom line. But as the West Coast’s premier producer, and a national leader in chicken production, continues to produce chicken with little in the way of explanation for how so much of its product ended up poisoning unsuspecting consumers.
As Far Back as October, a Public Health Alert Issued but No Recall Followed
In October of 2013 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health alert after it became evident that Foster Farms chicken was the source of a Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak sweeping the West Coast. But it was not until January that the agency engaged in aggressive action by suspending approval of chicken produced at the Foster Farms plant in Livingston, California, in effect closing the plant for three weeks. An inspection of the plant had uncovered a massive live cockroach infestation.
Following that brief closure, and the mounting number of victims being identified across over one-half of the states, Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to shut down all Foster Farms chicken operations until antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak was over. They even went so far as to sponsor a bill that would mandate USDA closure of any producer linked to the outbreak of an antibiotic resistant pathogen in meat, fish or eggs.
Then in July of this year, testing confirmed Foster Farms chicken was the source of a specific Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak. Given public pressure and the mood on Capitol Hill, Foster Farms was compelled to initiate a recall of a small portion of its product produced in March, most of which had already been consumed.
Foster Farms Has Yet to take Full Responsibility
Foster Farms has been resistant to calls for a recall, instead arguing that its product is safe to eat. It no boasts use of salmonella-free hens; of having disinfected all chicken barns; having vaccinated its poultry; and increased use of chlorine washes and antimicrobials. Critics say this is too little too late, and that it is time for Foster Farms to step up and take responsibility for having precipitated the severe illness of so many victims. Many of those victims, including many clients of Ron Simon & Associates, have incurred medical bills, lost work, and been forced to suffer through excruciating illnesses. These victims are just some of the hundreds of victims whose fight is far from over.
If you or a loved one tested positive for salmonella after eating Foster Farms chicken, whether at home or at a restaurant, the salmonella lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates are available to answer your questions.