Consumer Reports finds dangerous strain of salmonella in a sample of Foster Farms chicken

It's one of the same strains found in a widespread outbreak. Foster Farms should issue a recall.

Published: October 09, 2013 08:00 PM
Avoid packages of Foster Farms raw chicken with a P-6137A, P-6137, or P-7632 code.

As part of our ongoing tests of meat and poultry, Consumer Reports has found a dangerous strain of Salmonella in a sample of Foster Farms raw chicken. The strain we found matches one of those associated with the current outbreak, which has now sickened close to 300 people in 17 states.

The outbreak is associated with Foster Farms raw chicken products from three chicken processing plants in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our one sample, purchased in California in July 2013, came from Foster Farms plant P-6137A, one of the three plants.

“Consumer Reports typically doesn’t report findings from an individual test, but the connection of the sample to the current outbreak prompted us to make this information public,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Rangan points out that this outbreak is not only widespread, but is also reported to be severe. In addition, the implicated salmonella strains are resistant to multiple antibiotic drugs. That could make the resulting infections hard to treat. Despite that, Foster Farms has not issued a recall but has, instead, told consumers to cook their chicken thoroughly.

“That’s outrageous,” Rangan says. “We are calling on Foster Farms and the retail outlets that sell Foster Farms chicken to recall the chicken processed at these plants. How many illnesses will they wait for before taking action?" Rangan adds.

So far we’ve heard of only one grocery company that says it is removing all Foster Farms chickens processed at the implicated plants. Those chains include Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers/City Market, Ralphs, Food 4 Less (West Coast), Smith’s (southern Nevada and New Mexico), and QFC; all are owned by Kroger.  

Consumers Union, the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports, is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry production, to:   

  • Ask Foster Farms to recall all potentially contaminated products.
  • Classify Foster Farms raw chickens processed at the above-referenced plants as “adulterated products.” That would allow the USDA to stop sales of the products and could lead to other actions. In addition, the USDA should classify all antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella that have made people sick as adulterants.

We also think that the USDA should be able to mandate a recall.

Read our earlier special reports "Talking Turkey" and "How Safe Is Your Chicken?"

—Joel Keehn

What you should do

  • If you bought any Foster Farms raw chicken product, check the label for the codes that indicate where the chicken was processed (see the photo above for what the labels look like). We recommend throwing the product away if you see any of these codes: P-6137, P-6137A, or P-7632.

  • If you are shopping for chicken, avoid Foster Farms raw products with those codes.

  • If you think you might have been sickened by contaminated chicken, call your doctor and contact your local public health authorities. Tell them where and when you bought the chicken and any detail you may have from the packaging, such as the processing plant code.

  • When handling any poultry at the store or at home, take precautions. For example, make poultry the last thing you put in your cart when shopping, and place it in a plastic bag to prevent leaks. Store it at 40º F or below, and if you're not going to cook it within a few days, freeze it. And when cooking poultry, use a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches the proper internal temperature of at least 165º F to kill potentially harmful bacteria.

Editor's Note:

Funding for this project was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Any views expressed are those of Consumer Reports and its advocacy arm, Consumers Union, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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