Transcript: Foster Farms Responds to Chicken Salmonella Outbreaks
Salmonella causes more hospitalizations than any other foodborne illness, more deaths than any other foodborne illness, and it’s on the rise. Salmonella causes a million cases of food poisoning every year in the U.S., and over the last decade or so, the number of cases have increased by 44%, particularly among children and the elderly. And chicken is the #1 cause.
From Spring 2012 to Spring 2013, the Centers for Disease Control reported over 100 individuals infected across 13 states with a particularly virulent strain of Salmonella. One in three were hospitalized. Investigations pointed to Foster Farms brand chicken as the most likely cause of the outbreak, the 6th largest chicken producer in the US. The CDC warned people, but nothing was done. Foster Farms apparently continued to pump out contaminated meat. In October the CDC reported outbreak expanded to 21 states.
Though there’s only been a few hundred cases confirmed for every confirmed case, the CDC estimates 38 cases slip through the cracks, so that means Foster Farms chicken may have infected and sickened over 10,000 people.
When USDA inspectors went into investigate, they found 25% of the chicken they sampled was contaminated with the outbreak strain of Salmonella, likely because of all the fecal matter they found on the carcasses.
In the February 2014 issue of Consumer Reports, they published a study they did on the high cost of cheap chicken, finding 97% of retail chicken breast off store shelves contaminated with bacteria that can make people sick. 38% of the salmonella they found was resistant to multiple antibiotics, and considered a serious public health threat by the CDC. Consumer Reports suggested the cramped conditions on factory chicken farms may play a role, and indeed new research shows the stress of overcrowding can increase Salmonella invasion.
The Pew Commission released a special report on these outbreaks, concluding that they bring the ineffectiveness of USDA’s approach to minimizing Salmonella contamination in poultry products. The agency’s response was inadequate to protect public health, and to this day thousands of people are getting sick with this preventable foodborne illnesses. Among their recommendations, close facilities that are failing to produce safe food and keep them closed until their products stop sending people to the hospital.
What did Foster Farms have to say for itself? That their chicken was safe to eat, there’s no recall in effect, and that it is grade A wholesome. In the same breath, though, they say Salmonella on chicken happens all the time. Grade A wholesome, but might kill us if we don’t handle it right.
As outspoken food safety advocate Bill Marler put it, the poultry industry’s reaction to the presence of fecal contamination on chicken is that… it happens.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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