How safe is your chicken?

Posted on: 8:48 pm, December 19, 2013, by and

Salmonella chicken Foster Farms

Salmonellosis is a nasty illness. People infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, a fever and abdominal cramps that usually last for four to seven days.

The dangerous bacteria is found in the food we eat, usually chicken, beef or eggs that have been contaminated with animal feces. And a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) isn’t doing enough to keep our food Salmonella-free.

Pew researchers specifically looked at two recent outbreaks that were connected to chicken produced by Foster Farms in California.

Between June 2012 and May 2013, 134 people became infected with Salmonella Heidelberg — mostly in Oregon and Washington, according to the CDC.

Tests identified the outbreak strain in four samples of chicken that were traced back to two Foster Farms slaughterhouses.

Then in the summer and fall of 2013, 389 people in 23 states and Puerto Rico became sickened with varying strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. CDC investigators determined consumption of Foster Farms chicken was the likely source of the outbreak.

Every year, approximately 42,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the actual number of infections may be much higher. The majority of outbreaks over the last two decades have been linked to live poultry.

No deaths were reported in either outbreak. The second outbreak is ongoing, according to the CDC, which updated its numbers Thursday. An additional 27 people have fallen ill since November.

Salmonella is estimated to cause more than 1 million food-borne illnesses every year, according to the Pew Report, and health-related costs run as high as $11 billion yearly.

Researchers inform consumers to remain diligent about food safety practices, including washing their hands and cooking food to the right temperatures.