(RxWiki News) A developing outbreak of Salmonella has led health authorities to stress the importance of using the proper temperature when cooking raw foods.
The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert of possible Salmonella illnesses associated with raw chicken products from Foster Farms.
The warning came after an estimated 278 illnesses were reported in 18 states. FSIS has recommended the use of food thermometers to ensure the proper cooking temperature has been reached.
"Cook chicken thoroughly before eating."
According to FSIS, a department of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), most of the reported 278 illnesses have occurred in California. FSIS reported that the products in question originated at three of Foster Farm's facilities in California.
The investigation is still ongoing and FSIS has not yet linked the illnesses to a specific product or time period. However, FSIS reported that raw products from the facilities in question will show one of three codes on the package: P6137, P61371 or P7632. The majority of the products were sent to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington.
According to FSIS, salmonellosis, the illness caused by eating product contaminated with the bacteria Salmonella, is one of the most common bacterial food-borne illnesses. Common symptoms of salmonellosis include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that develop within 72 hours of eating a contaminated product.
"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," FSIS noted.
FSIS stressed the importance of properly handling raw poultry and meat, including following cooking instructions on the packages of products and adhering to general food safety guidelines.
"In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the product in order to attain 165 °F (degrees Fahrenheit) internal temperature, consumers should be aware that actual time may vary depending on the cooking method (broiling, frying, or grilling) and the temperature of the product (chilled versus frozen) so it is important that the final temperature of 165 °F must be reached for safety," FSIS explained. "Please do not rely on the cooking time for each side of the product, but use a food thermometer."
In a statement on the Foster Farms website, the company explained that it is working with FSIS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the investigation.
"...Foster Farms has instituted a number of additional food safety practices, processes and technology throughout company facilities that have already proven effective in controlling Salmonella in its Pacific Northwest operations earlier this year," the company reported.
Foster Farms also noted that no recall is currently in effect.