Update of Foster Farm’s Chicken –
- This outbreak of salmonella has been going on since March of 2013 and FSIS began investigating in July 1, 2113, it has only just now hit the media.
- Foster Farms has declined to recall the chicken, saying it is safe if handled properly and cooked to 165.
- Foster Farms has been issued a Notice of Enforcement by the USDA – link to document below.
- Although Foster Farms is refusing to recall the chicken processed at these three facilities some markets, like Ralph’s Kroegers have pulled all the Foster Farms chicken in question.
On the heals of my last post about food safety comes the “voluntary” recall of Foster Farms chicken. The CDC and USDA / FDA are running on fumes while the consumers (you and I) are left to fend for themselves in regards to food safety. The FDA / USDA have not announced an ‘official’ recall, but they have issued a “health alert“. I guess that 278 people confirmed with Salmonella only warrants an alert. Actually, I suspect that there are channels that have to be followed to actually document what is needed for a recall and there is not adequate staff to complete the “recall” procedures – so instead it is a “health alert”. Call it want you want – it is important and close to 300 people have been confirmed to be ill with salmonella that has been traced back to Foster Farms Chicken.
Foster Farms has issued this press release and according to information from my local market the recall may be expanding. This by the way, is happening while USDA inspectors ARE still onsite at meat processing facilities. So, we have meat inspectors but who do they report to? It has been reported that the CDC, who is in my opinion our last line of defense, has one person left to track the entire nation.
Kuddos to the (reportedly) one person at the CDC that was left to track and report. Thank You!
According to LAweekly “The outbreak is so bad that the CDC has brought staff back from the furlough to work on it. (They’ve had just one — one — poor soul tracking outbreaks since Congress’ snit fit.)”
This morning at 5 AM I heard the news, headed to my computer and confirmed that certain lots of Foster Farms Chicken had been voluntarily recalled. Out of an abundance of caution I am sure….
Accordingly the USDA has issued a “health alert” announcing –
“At this point in the investigation, FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period. Raw products from the facilities in question bear one of the establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package:
Highly aware of this recall – I decided to check my local store –
2 PM – Fully stocked display of Foster Farms Chicken. I assumed that this chicken was not officially “recalled” but out of an abundance of caution I passed on by.
I cruised the meat department looking for inspiration for dinner, while keeping an eye on that suspicious chicken, several employees from the meat dept. came out and started clearing the meat case of all Foster Farms chicken. They cleared the shelves and onto carts went package after package of chicken. Whole, pieces, legs, thighs, they were all removed. These guys went into action to fill the empty space in the meat counter with existing product. Prepackaged product was quickly moved into the vacant space.
Houston, we have a problem!
I stood and watched in stunned silence. Two minutes before I could have been tossing that chicken into my cart. As I watched, none of the shelves were disinfected or even wiped. We all know, packages of chicken leak. It is a fact of life. Those shelves should have been sprayed and cleaned. It only takes a teaspoon of bleach mixed with one quart of water, in a spray bottle to disinfect hard surfaces and it only takes a drop of contaminated “juice” to spread an illness to an unsuspecting consumer. That one simple missed step may contribute to additional contamination and and additional cases of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. As the CDC says, “Food is Complicated”
According to USA Today Salmonella Heidelberg has “….put at least 42% of the victims in the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. The salmonella strains are showing resistance to multiple antibiotics, and that means more people are going to the hospital and their infections will be harder for physicians to treat.”
So what did I do about the contaminated shelves – I went to the store manager.
The conversation went something like this…..
Me: ‘I have some concerns about the Foster Farms recall, I heard about it this morning and yet at 2 PM there was still chicken on the shelves. Just now after 2 pm I saw all the chicken pulled from the shelves….’
Manager: ‘Yes, we are aware of the problem, the recall was expanded and we had to pull additional product….’
She seemed to be reading a script and had a bit of an attitude.
Me: ‘I appreciate that, but those shelves were not wiped down and sanitized. I watched as existing products were pushed right onto the same shelves that just moments ago contained recalled, potentially contaminated chicken. I am talking to you because food safety starts from the top down.”
She immediately changed her tone. She was thankful that I brought this to her attention and immediately called the meat manager.
Could I have said something to the meat dept employees that were busy refilling shelves – I suppose I could have, but who am I? I am not a safety inspector (except for my own family) I am not a scientist, I don’t work for or speak for the CDC, FDA or the Health Dept. I am a Mom and the Nana to 12 precious grand kids.
Food should not be complicated but it is –
One drop of contaminated “juice” goes into your cart –
Onto the conveyor belt
Into your bag along with who knows what else…
Onto the counter…
Into the refrigerator, touching what?
Onto the cutting board….
Into the sink…
Finally into the pan to be cooked to 165 to kill those pathogens.
But what about the pathogens left behind, on the cart, the conveyor belt, on our hands, in our shopping bags?
Do I sound like an extremist? I have written many blogs on food safety and our food system, See We Deserve Better where I talked about Will. A little boy who I have never met. I followed his story as he battled E.Coli and I supported his family but I don’t ‘know’ these people. They are one of the “lucky ones” Will survived.
I am my own food activist and I encourage you to be the same.
My opinions are my own – as I have said, I am not a scientist or a pathologist. I rely on information from the CDC, FDA and USDA along with other sources. I do my best to verify my sources and I encourage you to do your own investigations.
Oh, BTW – that chicken is safe – as long as it is properly handled. No worries!
So says, Foster Farms “No Recall is in Effect. Products are Safe to Consume if Properly Handled and Fully Cooked.”
To quote the CDC, Food is complicated.