Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak Centered in Washington and Oregon – Other States Investigating
A major outbreak of salmonella, centered in the Northwest, has sickened at least 124 people in 12 states. About 80% of the Salmonella Heidelberg victims report having consumed chicken, and now government authorities in Oregon and Washington states are pointing to raw chicken produced by Foster Farms.
Foster Farms has production facilities in Oregon, Washington, California and Alabama. The Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak is in its eighth month, having begun with the report of the first confirmed victim on June 4, 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is taking an active role in the investigation.
The two Northwest states hit hardest are Washington State with 56 victims and Oregon State with 38 victims. The health departments of these two states have now identified Foster Farms chicken as the most likely source of the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak.
One Third of Victims Hospitalized
This particular strain of salmonella, Salmonella Heidelberg, has a hospitalization rate of 30-38%, with the rate increasing to 50-80% for those over 65 years of age. In this outbreak, the CDC reports that one-in-three of the victims have been hospitalized. As of today, Friday the 15th of February 2013, there have been no deaths reported. But the victims range in age from young infants to at least one victim of 94 years.
Both the very young and the elderly are most vulnerable to salmonella poisoning, and constitute the majority of the deaths from salmonella each year.
National food poisoning attorney, Ron Simon, warns the elderly and the parents of the very young to seek medical attention whenever there is evidence of food poisoning. In addition to being “vitally necessary to safeguard the wellbeing of the most vulnerable victims of an outbreak,” Simon adds “medical attention and a proper diagnosis is also necessary if you want to preserve your right to seek compensation for your injuries in a food poisoning lawsuit following a salmonella outbreak that traces the salmonella to a producer.”
Resilient Outbreak Strain Continues to Sicken During “Winter Lull”
The number of new cases seemed to rise dramatically in late September of 2012. After September and October, health officials expected to see the traditional “winter lull” that usually indicates a salmonella hiatus for the winter months, but this was not the case. The winter did not prevent new cases from continuing to surface, and new cases have continued to surface in 2013. These newly reported cases demonstrate that this outbreak is in full force, and showing no signs of ending. The CDC even notes that the 124 confirmed cases is a conservative number because the reporting process would not register recent cases that have surfaced since January 6, 2013, due to the time needed for those cases to makes their way through the reporting sequence and be confirmed as part of the outbreak.
Questions Remain as to Why No Recall Issued
Despite the identification of Foster Farms chicken as the source of the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, there has been no recall ordered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. And the company, which boasts that the incidence of salmonella infection of its poultry is 3.3% (below the 5% USDA Food Safety Assessment program), is safe. In a statement released by the company, it stated: “Since 2005, testing results for salmonella from the USDA-FSIS in the Pacific Northwest have consistently been well below the limits set for raw poultry. This indicates that our Pacific Northwest facilities maintained consistent process control for salmonella. Our facilities have earned and maintained Category 1 classification—the highest performance category for salmonella safety and control —for the last seven years.”
Food poisoning attorney Ron Simon disagrees. “Any poultry contaminated with salmonella that is sent to the table of the American consumer is a mistake,” Simon reiterated, adding “and that is why companies are held strictly liable for the illnesses caused by such products.”