Sunday, October 13, 2013


True, there is a large ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg bacteria in U.S. chicken. The company involved is Foster Farms, which also sells under other labels. Contaminated poultry has now been found in the food supply of 20 states and Puerto Rico. Over 300 people have become ill, with the largest number in California, where the 3 Foster Farms plants are located that produced the lots that were contaminated.

So what should be do about eating chicken? Is it safe to eat?

Yes, under certain conditions. But you need to be extra careful for two reasons. First, this is a particulary virulent type of Salmonella bacteria. Over 40% of those who catch it end up in hospital (about twice the usual rate). However, the actual percentages could be lower. I would assume that there is even more under-reporting of the related food poisoning illnesses than usual. After all, the food safety information and reporting systems are not functioning normally because of the forced furlough of thousands of staff at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Hospitals are more likely to have kept accurate records. Even then these numbers are rather frightening.

A second reason to take special precautions is because this bacterium is very resistant to antibiotics, which makes treatment more difficult.

However, having said this, if you are careful, your poultry lunch or dinner can be perfectly safe. Remember, when handling the raw chicken to do it in the sink, which you can wash down immediately afterwards. You may also want to wear disposable gloves, to be rolled off carefully and thrown straight into the garbage when you are finished touching the poultry. And avoid contaminating any surface or any other food item with the raw chicken. Finally, make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

As for eating chicken out, or buying chicken takeout or "ready-to-eat" chicken - I would avoid this for a while. You can't always rely on thorough cooking of such poultry. Remember the cooked chicken that was found to be contaminated at a COSTCO store yesterday - resulting in a recall by COSTCO of 40,000 pounds of cooked chicken!

To your good health,


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