There are "concerns that illness caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California," said the alert issued Monday by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Foster Farms said in a news release no products have been recalled and that products from the three facilities are safe to eat if properly handled and cooked "to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F as determined by a food thermometer."
The alert said the products bear one of the three facility numbers, which appear on the price sticker:
The products from the three facilities were distributed to retail outlets mainly in California, Oregon and Washington state, according to Food Safety and Inspection Service.
"This public health alert is being issued after an estimated 278 illnesses were recently reported in 18 states, predominantly in California," the agency said. "The outbreak is continuing. The investigations indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken and other brand chicken produced at Foster Farms plants are the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. Illnesses were linked to Foster Farms brand chicken through epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials."
“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family-owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its near 80-year history,” Foster Farms President Ron Foster said in a statement.
The company's food safety chief and head veterinarian, Dr. Robert O’Connor, said in a statement, “Salmonella is naturally occurring in poultry and can be fully eradicated if raw product is properly handled and fully cooked.”
"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," the government alert said. "The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days."