Chicken livers contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg have now sickened 179 people in six states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
That’s 22 more cases in four more states than the CDC reported Nov. 9.
The kosher broiled chicken livers, sold by Schreiber Processing Corp. of Maspeth, NY, under the MealMart brand, were recalled Nov. 8. The chicken livers had been distributed to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Florida.
Customers may have incorrectly thought the word “broiled” in the label meant the chicken livers were ready-to-eat, however they were not fully cooked, the CDC has speculated.
In its latest report on the outbreak, the CDC said New York has now identified 99 cases of Salmonella infection linked to the chicken livers, New Jersey has confirmed 61 related cases, Pennsylvania 10, Maryland 6, Ohio 2 and Minnesota 1.
Those ill range in age from younger than 1 to 97 years old. Median age is 13. Of 126 people whom CDC has information about, 25 have been hospitalized. The illnesses began in March and continued through October.
In August, the CDC noticed a “sustained increase” — about 30 to 40 cases per month since June — in the number of Salmonella Heidelberg isolates with the outbreak strain reported by New York and New Jersey to PulseNet, the national foodborne illness surveillance system. Those states typically report only about 5 cases of S. Heidelberg a month.
New York City conducted an enhanced epidemiologic investigation, which traced the source of the outbreak to the chicken livers. Lab tests in New York then identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella in samples of the MealMart chicken livers and in chopped liver made from the MealMart chicken livers.
New York City, the CDC notes, is one of the FoodCORE sites supported in part by USDA-FSIS and the Association of Public Health Laboratories that work together to quickly detect, investigate and control multistate outbreaks of foodborne diseases.
Consumers should discard any of these chicken liver products still in their homes, the CDC said.
It also advised that chicken livers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and when partially cooked chicken livers are repackaged for sale, retailers should clearly label them as requiring further cooking.