According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Foster Farms chicken has been linked to at least 524 victims of Salmonella Heidelberg in 25 states.
With confirmed victim counts averaging about three percent of the total number of victims in a given outbreak (as indicated by CDC projections), as many as 16,000 victims have likely contracted salmonella poisoning after eating Foster Farms chicken since March 1, 2013.
The majority of the victims are California residents, who make up just over 3 in 4 of the victims nationwide. In California alone, nearly 400 confirmed victims have been identified. Health officials in Arizona have identified at least 24, while in each of Washington, Colorado, Texas, Nevada and Oregon about a dozen victims have been identified. Reports of single-digit victim counts have arisen in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, the Foster Farms outbreak has now been linked to 7 different strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. These strains have caused over a third of victims (37%) to be hospitalized. In addition, the victims’ roads to recovery have proven more difficult given the fact that a number of these salmonella strains are resistant to traditional antibiotics. Nearly two-thirds of the victims have contracted a strain that is resistant to at least one commonly used antibiotic, and nearly a third have contracted a strain of salmonella that is multi-antibiotic resistant. (The antibiotics that are often failing to kill these stains of salmonella include commonly prescribed drugs such as ampicillin, gentamicin, chloramphenicol, sulfisoxazole, kanamycin, streptomycin, and tetracycline.)
Critics of Foster Farms point to the highly polluted production facilities, including one that was recently shuttered after a finding of severe cockroach infestation, and the heavy use of antibiotics in the poultry themselves.
Foster Farms Refuses to Act Despite a Calendar Year with 500 Victims
Over 500 victims have contracted between March of 2013 and March of 2014, and yet Foster Farms has resisted demands for a recall. When pressed to act, Foster Farms has repeated the mantra that consumers should take special care to make sure all chicken is handled safely and cooked to an internal temperature sufficient to kill bacteria.
But the number of people finding this response inadequate is growing fast. According to national food safety lawyer Ron Simon, “this contaminated chicken is a danger in any kitchen.”
The Foster Farms Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak is striking victims of all ages – as victims from less than a year old to at least 93 years of age have become sickened–with the vast majority (nearly 86% of all victims) consuming the product at home. Other victims hare contracted Salmonella Heidelberg after eating at restaurants or prepared food retailers (including a number of Costco locations), which only demonstrates that even seasoned food establishments are having trouble “cooking out” the dangerous bacteria in the Foster Farms chicken.
Ron Simon, who represents a growing number of Foster Farms salmonella victims, has called for the speedy and complete recall of all Foster Farms raw chicken on the market. “No product in America should be sold with such recklessness,” Simon notes, “especially when the manufacturer has been aware of the problem for over a year.”