ATLANTA – A total of 124 people in 12 states have been infected with Salmonella Heidelberg since June 2012, Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control reported Feb. 14.
Most of the infections occurred in Washington state (56) and Oregon (38), CDC said. Thirty-one people have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths associated with the outbreak, according to the agency.
CDC said state public health officials are interviewing ill persons regarding foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before getting sick. However, available information indicates that chicken is the most likely source of infection.
Public health officials in Oregon and Washington identified Foster Farms brand chicken as the most likely source of infections in their states. Approximately 81 percent of those interviewed reported eating chicken in the week before becoming ill. CDC said the investigation is ongoing to determine the specific type and source of chicken that might be linked with the outbreak.
Foster Farms, Kelso, Wash., issued a statement to customers in the Pacific Northwest.
"The safety and quality of our poultry products is Foster Farms' utmost priority. There is no recall in effect for any brand of chicken related to the Oregon Health Authority announcement as it is widely known that all raw chicken must be responsibly handled and properly prepared to ensure safety and quality. All raw chicken, like all raw meats, can contain bacteria that can be harmful to human health. For this reason, all raw chicken must be fully cooked to ensure safety and quality. Bacteria on food, including Salmonella, are fully eliminated and present no risk with proper storage, handling and preparation.
"Foster Farms does everything it can to ensure the safety of our poultry products within our facilities and our testing results demonstrate excellence. However, there is always room to provide more education and awareness about food safety practices. We want all consumers to have a safe and satisfying experience with chicken products."
Foster Farms said that since 2005 test results for Salmonella have consistently been well below limits set for raw poultry. The company reminded consumers to cook poultry thoroughly and to be mindful of cross-contamination with other foods or food preparation surfaces when handling raw poultry products.
"As an industry leader, Foster Farms constantly reviews and implements new technology and practices deemed effective as part of its commitment to improving the microbial safety of poultry products."