LIVINGSTON, CALIF. –On July 3, Foster Farms, in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, initiated a voluntary Class I recall of fresh chicken products sold under the Foster Farms or private-label brand names produced in March with varying “use or freeze by” dates ranging from March 16, 2014 to March 31, 2014, and Sunland frozen chicken products that have a "best by" date of March 7, 2015 to March 11, 2015 on fears of a potential presence of Salmonella Heidelberg.

Only products made in California within this specific March timeframe and with plant codes of P-6137, P-6137A and P-7632 are involved. Fresh Foster Farms branded chicken products in grocery stores today plus individually frozen bags of chicken sold at retail are not involved. The company stated this recall was prompted by one illness associated with a specific fresh chicken product; and that the company decided to expand the recall to include all products packaged at that time to ensure food safety.

FSIS said it was notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of one Salmonella Heidelberg illness on June 23, 2014, associated with the consumption of a boneless, skinless chicken breast product. Working in conjunction with CDC, FSIS determined that there is a link between boneless skinless chicken breast products from Foster Farms and this illness. Based on FSIS’ epidemiological and traceback investigations, one case-patient has been identified in California with an illness onset date of May 5, 2014.

This illness is part of an ongoing outbreak being monitored and investigated by FSIS and CDC. Previously, there had been no direct evidence that linked the illnesses associated with this outbreak to a specific product or production lot, FSIS said. Evidence that is required for a recall includes obtaining case-patient product that tests positive for the same particular strain of Salmonella that caused the illness, packaging on product that clearly links the product to a specific facility and a specific production date, and records documenting the shipment and distribution of the product from purchase point of the case-patient to the originating facility. Additional information about the illness outbreak is on CDC’s website

Last year, company products were also linked it to Salmonella Heidelberg that sickened hundreds of people in the US. In early March this year, the CDC in Atlanta said an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farms chicken products has sickened more people, prompting it to reverse its earlier stance that the outbreak appeared to be ending. In early March this year, the CDC said an outbreak ofSalmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farms chicken products during the past year has sickened more people than originally thought, prompting it to reverse its earlier stance that the outbreak appeared to be ending. The most recent CDC figures indicate the outbreak has reportedly sickened at least 621 Americans.
Involving chicken produced during select March dates at Foster Farms’ California facilities, products in this most recent recall were distributed in California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Idaho and Alaska.

Recalled products include:
• Fresh chicken products sold by retailers under Foster Farms or private-label brand names, with varying “use or freeze by” date ranges of March 16 to March 31, 2014, and a plant code of P-6137, P-6137A or P-7632.
• Sunland Frozen Chicken products with “best by” dates from March 7, 2015 to March 11, 2015.
A full list of involved products is on Consumers should discard or return affected product to the place of purchase.

Foster Farms said that in October 2013, the US industry average for Salmonella in poultry parts was 25 percent. At that time, it began implementing a multi-hurdle program designed to reduce Salmonella at each stage of the production process – from ranches where the birds are raised, to the plants where they are processed. By March 2014, when these products were produced, Foster Farms Salmonella prevalence levels companywide were less than 10 percent. Additional improvements since March have reduced Salmonella levels to less than 5 percent.

According to the company, experts agree that even with very low levels of incidence, the poultry industry cannot completely eliminate the risk of illness. All raw chicken must be properly handled to avoid cross contamination and fully cooked to 165°F to ensure safety, it added.

The company claims it now leads the industry in reducing incidence levels of Salmonella. It is also leading a US poultry industry working group dedicated to further reducing Salmonella during the second stage of processing, after whole birds are divided into parts. Foster Farms said is sharing its findingswith other food processors for the benefit of consumers nationwide.