The USDA is issuing a public health alert for chicken products distributed to retail outlets in Washington, Oregon and California.
The USDA says there are concerns that illness caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
The USDA says at this point in the investigation, the Food Safety and Inspection Service 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:
The USDA says the public health alert is being issued after an estimated 278 illnesses were recently reported in 18 states, predominantly in California, and the outbreak is continuing.
The investigations indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken and other brand chicken produced at Foster Farms plants are the likely source of the outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering with state health departments to monitor the outbreak while FSIS continues its investigation.
The USDA says poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F as determined by a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.