The leading source of identified salmonella illness in the U.S remained chicken in 2014, with Foster Farms continuing to produce and sell chicken linked to at least 7 strains of Salmonella Heidelberg – many of them antibiotic resistant. At present, at least 600 victims have been identified in the long running Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken in about 29 states. But Tyson Farms was also implicated in the spread of Salmonella Heidelberg, with the CDC tracing at least 9 illnesses at a Tennessee Correctional Facility to Tyson brand chicken. Even though incarcerated, this outbreak became publicized after inmates were forced to seek medical attention. But there were also chicken-related salmonella outbreaks linked to other strains of salmonella. In Minnesota health officials identified Salmonella Enteriditis cases linked to Antioch Farms brand A La Kiev raw stuffed chicken breasts, which are sold frozen. The official CDC numbers likely represent only a small portion of the actual number of victims, many of whom do not seek medical attention.
But in addition to chicken, which remained at the top of the list numerically in 2014, peanut butter again appeared prominently. Although not identified as a major outbreak until late summer, the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak linked to nSpired Natural Foods began in January of this year. On August 19 nSpired Natural Foods was compelled to issue a voluntary recall of different lots of almond and peanut butters, including brands under household names, such as Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Whole Foods, Arrowhead Mills, and Maranatha. Confirmed victims of the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak were subsequently identified in Iowa, New Mexico, Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas, though the number of actual victims may have been much higher and in a wider geographical area given the products distribution.
In 2014, there were also outbreaks linked to products that are not often mentioned as likely sources of salmonella, including Chia powder which was linked to a major international outbreak, with cases in both the U.S. and Canada. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an announcment on June 2, the outbreak of Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hartford, and Salmonella Oranienburg had been traced to the distribution of Organic Sprouted Chia Powder. Of the 31 confirmed U.S. cases, 21 of them were infected with Salmonella Newport. Seven victims tested positive for Salmonella Hartford, and another 4 tested positive for Salmonella Oranienburg. The illnesses, which began to present on January 21, continued into late July – as Organic Sprouted Chia Powder became the focal point of the investigation, samples of Navitas Naturals of Novato California, were tested and the presence of all three strains of salmonella was identified. Victims were identified in the United States in California, Arizona, New York, Wisconsin, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Texas. Additional victims have been identified in Canada. The recall was expanded to include Navitas Naturals Organic Sprouted Chia Powder, Navitas naturals Omega Blend Sprouted Smoothie Mix, and William-Sonoma Omega 3 Smoothie Mixer.
But Chia powder was not the only odd source of a salmonella outbreak in 2014. On May 20, the CDC also announced an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium. According to the CDC, there were at least 37 confirmed victims from California, Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas. The product was not a traditional food source, but rather packages of frozen rodents for PetSmart stores, often sold as Arctic Mice. Investigators from Oregon were the ones to isolate the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in the frozen feeder mice – the frozen feeder mice had been packaged by Reptile Industries. Ironically, also in May, the CDC announced its determination that (once again), an outbreak of Salmonella Infantis and Salmonell Newport had been linked to live mail-order poultry for backyard flocks. At least 363 victims in 43 states were identified between February and September, having ordered the poultry from Mt. Healthy Hatchery.
Localized Outbreaks of Salmonella:
There were also a number of localized outbreaks, including the traditional high-profile restaurant-related salmonella outbreaks. Among these was Proper Restaurant in Boone, North Carolina was linked to 37 North Carolina illnesses; Jewel Osco Deli, which was linked to about 20 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium; El Patron, in Russellbile, Alabama, which was linked to at least a dozen salmonella illnesses; and the Old Country Buffet, in Maple Grove, Minnesota which was linked to at last three dozen salmonella illnesses.
But other localized outbreaks were linked to community events. One of these well-publicized outbreaks included identification of 41 victims who, among 250 people attendees, participated in the Reading Summer Festival Days in Reading, Michigan. All the victims attended the event, and as far as health officials know, all of the victims appear to have been Michigan residents. But in another outbreak, this time in North Carolina, a potluck meal served to about 400 people at Living Word Tabernacle in Bessemer City, North Carolina, resulted in about 55 illnesses. The 40day church conference lasted from October 1-5, and at least seven of the individuals were laboratory confirmed salmonella positive.
In short, 2014 was a fairly standard year in terms of salmonella outbreaks, with Foster Farms leading the way. National food safety lawyer Ron Simon, represents many of the victims of the Foster Farms outbreak. For more information, call 713-306-3880.