As a nation, we love chicken! Chicken is usually considered a healthy protein option and can be prepared in a myriad of ways. For many people, it is the ‘go-to’ dinner meal. There are even restaurant chains that showcase chicken as their primary menu item. According to information from the National Chicken Council, chicken consumption in the United States has gone from 70.4 pounds per capita for 1994 to 83.5 pounds per capita in 2014. Our high rate of consumption makes it extremely important that we can trust that our food supply is free from illness-inducing contaminants.
California-based Foster Farms has recently announced a recall on salmonella-tainted chicken. The chicken has been sold under the Foster Farms name as well as under other store brand names such as Costco, Kroger, and Foodmaxx – all located primarily on the West Coast of the United States with 76 percent of the cases coming from California. The outbreak started in March 2013 and has continued to escalate. To date there are 621 reported cases in 29 states and Puerto Rico. The map depicts the number of cases by state.
In the case that spawned the recall, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was able to recover leftover chicken from a reported victim. After running tests, they determined the strain of salmonella found on the remains was the same as that found on the affected person, giving the agency a direct link to the Foster Farms product. Incidentally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified greater than 600 cases linked to this chicken.
Even though the USDA was armed with evidence that the chicken was tainted, the agency does not have recall authority and it was left up to Foster Farms to initiate the recall. Food advocates have pushed for increased regulation and the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill to give the USDA recall authority in cases such as this. Specifically, this strain of salmonella – referred to as Salmonella Heidelberg – is resistant to antibiotics and has resulted in close to 40 percent of victims requiring hospitalization. No one has died as a result of the outbreak.
Foster Farms has taken steps to reduce contamination in their factories with outcomes of a recent test showing that two percent of product tested exhibited salmonella contamination. Company officials say that the industry average is 25 percent.
The recalled chicken was produced between March 7th and March 13th and the concern for the USDA and the CDC is that consumers may still have some of the chicken stored in their freezers. The agencies ask that consumers check their freezers and use the online list of affected item codes and distribution points to ensure they have no contaminated product in their homes.
Even when consumers take every precaution, it is possible to still purchase and consume tainted product. The consequences of consumption can be extremely serious – including hospitalization and sometimes worse.
Though this post focuses on a food recall, all types of products can be recalled due to being found unsafe or even dangerous. If you believe you have been harmed by a defective product, it is important that you know your rights and seek the expertise of an attorney who can review your case and provide you with options.
Photo Credit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/map.html