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Publisher’s Platform: Why Does FSIS Like Foster Farms’ Salmonella Better Than Cargill’s Salmonella?


Is it because Foster Farms was selling tainted chicken in pieces and Cargill was selling tainted ground beef and turkey?

On Friday, CDC reported that a total of 317 individuals infected with multiple outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 20 states and Puerto Rico linked to Foster Farms chicken. Most of those sickened (73 percent) are from California. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alaska (2), Arkansas (1), Arizona (13), California (232), Colorado (4), Connecticut (1), Florida (4), Idaho (2), Kentucky (1), Michigan (2), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Nevada (9), New Mexico (2), Oregon (8), Puerto Rico (1), Texas (9), Utah (2), Virginia (2), Washington (15), and Wisconsin (1).

In July 2013, CDC reported that a total of 134 individuals infected with an outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg were reported from 13 states linked to Foster Farms chicken. The number of ill persons identified in each state with the outbreak strain was as follows: Alabama (1), Alaska (13), California (11), Hawaii (1), Idaho (2), Massachusetts (1), Montana (2), New York (1), Oregon (40), Utah (3), Virginia (1), Washington (57), and West Virginia (1).

Although FSIS threatened Foster Farms with taking its inspectors and going home, that did not happen. FSIS has told Food Safety News that Foster Farms is working on the problem now.  Apparently, letters one, two and three that FSIS sent to Foster Farms two days ago did the trick.

I did a little searching on www.outbreakdatabase.com and found more than a few examples of meat recalls – chicken and beef – due to Salmonella contamination.

2012: Salmonella Enteriditis Due to Contaminated Cargill Ground Beef

40 sick – On July 22, 2012, Cargill Meat Solutions announced a recall of 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products due to possible contamination with Salmonella Enteriditis. Using epidemiologic and traceback data, public health investigators in eight states and CDC linked the infections to consumption of Cargill ground beef.

2011: Hannaford Hamburger Ground Beef

20 sick – On Dec. 16, Hannaford, a Scarborough, ME-based grocery chain, recalled fresh ground beef products that may have been contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. The recall resulted from an investigation into human illness.

2011: Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Turkey

136 sick – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert on July 29 due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that were associated with the use and consumption of ground turkey.

2009: Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef

2 sick – In December, Beef Packers, Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled more than 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport. The company issued an earlier recall in August 2009 due to contamination of ground beef.

2009: Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef

68 sick – A Beef Packers, Inc., plant in California owned by Cargill distributed approximately 830,000 pounds of ground beef that was likely contaminated with Salmonella Newport.

2002: Emmpak/Cargill Ground Beef

47 sick – In early 2002, isolates of Salmonella Newport in New York State were found to be resistant to more than nine antibiotics and had a decreased susceptibility to the antibiotic ceftriaxone.

It cannot be the numbers of those sickened. Frankly, Foster Farms in two outbreaks has sickened more than Cargill did in six.

One form or another of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella caused all of the above outbreaks.

Is it because it is ground vs. whole?

© Food Safety News
  • Michael Ray

    It would be interesting and more complete to add pork products into your research. More chicken is sold in the US by pound than any other category of meat, and public perception of chicken as “more healthful” has been pretty well assimilated into culture. Perhaps indu$try influence follows a correlated path as pounds-of-production?

  • Angela

    I am more inclined to think it is because of the present Government Shut down… and the unwillingness of the FSIS to spend man hours on this during the shut down. That is just my opinion…

    • george

      why dont people just cook their chicken?e

      • farmber

        Not as easy as all that…

        Costco, with all their expertise, cooked the Foster chicken for sale to consumers — and some consumers got sick eating the professionally cooked chicken…

  • gh.phi

    The difference seems to be that Cargill is more willing to recall its products than Foster Farms.

  • Oginikwe

    Because Cargill has other assets whereas Foster Farms is jut Foster Farms?
    Because it’s easier to be seen as beating up on a corporation poisoning us than it is a family-owned business that is equally as toxic?

  • Former Food Bug Lady

    The nub of the problem is contained in the sentence (letter 3) “Although presence of the outbreak strain alone is not evidence that product is adulterated…”

    I have always advocated that the presence of a pathogen should and does constitute “adulteration” If it’s good enough for EHEC in beef, it’s good enough for Salmonella in poultry. It’s well past time for the US to address the poultry contamination issue head-on.

  • Andrew

    There is a key piece of information missing, are the cases actually all tied to foster farms? Those that have been tied to it, how was the connection made? Unfortunately as is often the case when doing an investigation it isn’t always clear that there is a tie in or the tie in to the product isn’t strong enough. For example if the investigators listed the people as having ate foster farms chicken (Fully cooked) yet when the fully cooked chicken is tested it is negative and they also all ate a salad with the chicken dinner can you say for sure that it wasn’t the salad? You should also post how many times a product has been identified as the source of contamination only to later find out that it wasn’t. Without seeing all the data we can only speculate……..

  • crookedstick

    Face it Big AG meat is unsafe. Now they want to add horsemeat to the mix? No more meat for me.