A California poultry producer has recalled over a million pounds of fresh chicken sold in the West that might have been contaminated with salmonella Heidelberg
The chicken was produced by Foster Farms of Fresno, Calif. It was sold in March in nine Western states.
Because almost the entire amount was sold fresh, none of it would still be available in stores "but it could still be in consumers' freezers," said Ira Brill, the company's director of communication.
The chicken was sold in California, Hawaii, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Alaska.
The chicken would have the establishment number "P6137," P6137A" or "P7632" inside the USDA mark of inspection on the label.
The products were produced on March 8, 10 and 11, 2014. It would have had a "best used by" date of between March 21 and 29. Fresh chicken has "about a ten day shelf life," so none of the fresh product would have been for sale after April 8, Brill said.
The recall stems from a single illness that was traced back to chicken produced at a Foster Farms plant in Fresno, Calif., said Brill.
The recall is the first in an ongoing 16-month salmonella outbreak of salmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farms chicken that has sickened a total of 574 people as of May 22, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Thirty-seven percent of those who were ill have been hospitalized, CDC said in May.
There are seven strains of salmonella Heidelberg involved in the outbreak, which began in March of 2013. Illnesses have occurred in 27 states.
Fosters Farms is the west coast's largest producer of fresh chicken.
Salmonella is presumed to be present and is acceptable in U.S. poultry under USDA rules. Up to 7.5% of chicken carcasses in a plant may test positive for the bacteria, according to USDA performance standards.
Foster Farms has embarked on a plan to lower salmonella rates in its poultry, which it believes it has down to 5%, Brill said.
To ensure safety, consumers need to wash everything that comes into contact with raw poultry and always cook it to 165 degrees using a meat thermometer, said Brill.
"I commend both Foster Farms and USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service for doing the right thing for food safety," said Seattle ood safety attorney Bill Marler. "Recalling product is both embarrassing and hard, but is the right thing to do for your customers."