The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert Monday after nearly 300 people have gotten sick from salmonella after eating raw chicken packaged at three Foster Farms facilities in California.
The USDA reports that cases of Salmonella Heidelberg were linked to chicken bought in Oregon, Washington and California state.
The Salmonella outbreak has spread to 18 states, though most of the reported illnesses have been in California.
Jason Davis with Lane County Public Health said his organization is monitoring at least 4 cases to see if that strand of salmonella is linked to the salmonella involved in the outbreak.
As of now neither the USDA nor Foster Farms has issued a recall on the chicken.
Davis said it is still possible to purchase the contaminated food in Oregon, but consumers can avoid getting sick through proper preparation, handling and cooking practices.
Contrary to common practice, food safety experts now say you should never rinse raw chicken before preparing it, because rinsing splatters thousands of droplets and spreads the bacteria, which increases the chance of cross contamination.
The key rules of working with raw chicken are to:
- Keep raw chicken separate from other foods
- Keep raw chicken utensils and cutting surfaces separate from other utensils and surfaces
- Wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water after handling raw chicken
- Cook raw chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees
Due to the government shutdown, many of the USDA staff are furloughed. USDA Public affairs deputy Aaron Lavallee said he was reactivated after being furloughed, to help respond to inquiries and concerns.
USDA investigators traced the contaminated chicken to three facilities. The USDA mark on suspect packages would read: P6137, P6137A and P7632. After identifying the suspected source of the contamination, the USDA could not confirm exact products or specific lots to initiate a recall.
Some key information systems at the Centers for Disease Control are not accessible. But Lavallee stressed the shutdown did not affect the agency's 135 front line investigators and their labs are still up and running.