(Adds details of outbreak, company response)
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON Oct 7 Hundreds of people in 18
states have become sick from a salmonella outbreak linked to raw
chicken products made at three California plants owned by Foster
Farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday.
"The outbreak is continuing," USDA's Food Safety and
Inspection Service said in a statement.
An estimated 278 illnesses, mostly in California, were
caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. The chicken products
were distributed mostly to retail outlets in California, Oregon
and Washington state, USDA said.
The illnesses were linked to Foster Farms brand chicken
through epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback investigations
conducted by local, state and federal officials.
In a statement, Livingston, California-based Foster Farms
said it was working with authorities to reduce the incidence of
Salmonella Heidelberg on raw chicken products.
No recall is in effect, the privately owned company added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering
with state health departments to monitor the outbreak while the
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) continues its
investigation, USDA said.
"In addition to collaborating with FSIS and CDC, the company
has retained national experts in epidemiology and food safety
technology to assess current practices and identify
opportunities for further improvement," Foster Farms President
Ron Foster said in a statement.
Salmonella Heidelberg is the third most common strain of the
Salmonella pathogen, which can result in foodborne illness if
not destroyed by the heat of proper cooking.
The most common symptoms of salmonella infection are
diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours.
Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting
that can last up to seven days.
FSIS is one of the arms of USDA that continues to work
during the federal government shutdown, but with reduced
staffing. Meat, poultry and processed egg inspection activities
have been maintained.
Raw products from the facilities bear one of the following
numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the
package: P6137, P6137A or P7632.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)