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Should salmonella outbreaks trigger recalls?

by AirTalk®

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Foster Farms chicken is seen for sale in a grocery store in Los Angeles,California October 8, 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said October 07 that it had issued a public health alert after raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms have sickened hundreds of people, the majority of whom are in California. Approximately 278 illnesses, caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, were reported in 18 states. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the government shutdown, the Centers for Disease Control has brought 30 of its furloughed food-safety scientists back to work to help contain the latest outbreak of salmonella which has affected nearly 300 people, mostly in California. The disease’s symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within three days of consumption.

This particular strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, which has been tracked to Foster Farms processing facilities in California, has proven resistant to several common antibiotics and is tough to treat and has hospitalized 42 percent of those who’ve come down with the disease, which is commonly associated with eating raw or undercooked chicken.

On its website, Foster Farms announced: “The FSIS alert is limited to raw chicken and there is no recall in effect. Foster Farms raw chicken products are safe and present no risk when safe food handling and cooking practices are followed. We want to remind consumers that all raw chicken, regardless of brand, must be properly handled and fully cooked to ensure safety. All raw poultry products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer.”

Salmonella does not trigger recalls, like E. coli does, but some food safety advocates are starting to think it should, especially as it becomes resistant to drugs used to treat it. But others argue that recalling a massive amount of chicken simply because people aren’t cooking and handling it correctly would be a waste of huge amounts of food and money.

Do you think chicken should be recalled when a salmonella outbreak is detected? Or should people learn how to properly handle the food they’re preparing?


James Marsden, Professor of Food Science at Kansas State University

Jaydee Hanson, Regulatory Policy Analyst, Center for Food Safety 


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