ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collaborating with public health and agriculture officials in New York, New Jersey and other states, as well as the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the US Food and Drug Administration to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to a kosher chicken liver product labeled as kosher broiled chicken livers from Schreiber Processing Corporation, which is not ready-to-eat and requires further cooking before eating.

The outbreak strain is different from another strain of Salmonella Heidelberg associated with ground turkey recalled earlier this year, CDC said.

On Nov. 21, CDC reported 179 illnesses due to Salmonella Heidelberg with the outbreak pattern were reported from six states linked to this product. The number of ill persons identified in each state the product is distributed to is as follows: New York, 99; New Jersey, 61; Pennsylvania, 10; Maryland, 6; Ohio, 2; and Minnesota; 1.

Public health investigators are using DNA “fingerprints” of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. They are using data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections. Because the Salmonella Heidelberg PFGE pattern associated with this outbreak commonly occurs in the US, some of the cases with this pattern may not be related to this outbreak.

Based on ongoing case-finding and the dates cases were reported, the number of persons associated with this outbreak may increase or decrease, CDC said. Based on the previous five years of reports to PulseNet, approximately 30-40 cases with the outbreak strain would be expected to be reported per month in the US.

In August 2011, CDC identified a sustained increase in the number of Salmonella Heidelberg isolates with the outbreak strain reported to PulseNet from New York and New Jersey. Based on the previous five years of reports to PulseNet, New York and New Jersey would expect approximately five cases per month, but in June through August 2011, these states experienced approximately 30-40 cases a month.

No sustained increase in the number of illnesses above baseline has been identified in other states. FSIS’s ongoing investigation determined the kosher broiled chicken livers were distributed to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island and Florida. As the investigation progresses, additional states may be identified.

Among the people for whom information is available in these states, stricken persons range in age from <1 to 97 years with a median age of 13 years. Forty-nine percent are female. Among the 126 ill persons with available information, 25 (20 percent) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.