ATLANTA – A total of 17 individuals from four states were infected with an outbreak strain of Salmonella, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. Eight individuals were hospitalized, and one death was reported from New York.

CDC said epidemiological and traceback evidence revealed some kosher chicken products were contaminated with Salmonella and made people sick. Case patients interviewed as part of the investigation reported eating kosher chicken. Seven individuals specifically reported eating Empire Kosher brand chicken. Illnesses were reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

Investigators identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella in samples from raw chicken collected at two facilities. One of those facilities processes Empire Kosher chicken.

In a statement, Empire Kosher said: 

“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have each issued a public health alert out of an abundance of caution due to concerns about Salmonella illnesses reported in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States that may be associated with raw chicken products. We have been cooperating fully with the USDA and the CDC on this matter. The Empire brand takes food safety and the health of our consumers very seriously. Throughout our 80-year history, we have worked with relentless focus to ensure the quality and safety of our products and continue to do so.

The CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating Empire brand chicken and no products have been recalled or withdrawn from the marketplace.  As with any poultry, when handled and prepared properly, including thoroughly cooking as instructed, our products pose no risk to consumers.   

Empire brand, along with the USDA and the CDC, want to remind consumers of safe handling practices for all raw chicken. When handled and cooked properly to 165°F, consumers can continue to have full confidence in chicken products.If you live in the areas identified and have any questions please call 1-877-627-2803 to speak with an Empire Consumer Specialist.”

On Aug. 24, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Dept. of Agriculture issued a public health alert warning consumers about the contaminated chicken. The agency warned that the affected products, which may include raw whole chicken and raw chicken parts, were produced and sold to consumers from September 2017 to June 2018. Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 25, 2017, to June 4, 2018, the CDC reported.

Symptoms of salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses, include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. Illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment, however in some individuals the diarrhea may be so severe as to require hospitalization, according to FSIS. In rare cases, Salmonella may cause death without prompt treatment.

Updated to reflect response from Empire Kosher.