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Salmonella Outbreak Sickens 278, Concerns Over Shutdown

While 45% of the FDA's employees have been temporarily laid off, 87% of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel have been retained.

Black and white microscope image of salmonella bacteria

Photo: Ayacop (Wikimedia Commons)

Salmonella poisoning causes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 72 hours of exposure.

Salmonella Heidelberg

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reporting that a major salmonella outbreak has sickened an estimated 278 people across 18 states.

Salmonella Heidelberg has been found in raw chicken from California’s Foster Farms. Around three-fourths of people sickened in the outbreak live in California.

Nevertheless, the USDA has said in a statement, “At this point in the investigation, FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.”

42 percent of those sickened have been hospitalized — almost double the normal percentage of those usually hospitalized with salmonella, according to Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

What About The Shutdown?

With the government currently in shutdown mode, many are wondering how the FSIS is affected.

While 45 percent of the Food and Drug Administration’s 14,779 employees have been forced into temporary lay-offs, 87 percent of the FSIS personnel have been retained.

The FSIS has tried to calm worries by stating that inspectors are still on the job. However, communications workers have been furloughed, reducing the ability to spread the word of outbreaks.

Officials do warn that working at reduced capacity could affect multi-state investigations pertaining to food-borne illness.

What Can You Do?

Foster Farms has not recalled any chicken to this point, since proper cooking will kill the virus.

Cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill salmonella. The FSIS recommends using a meat thermometer, not relying on cooking times.

Salmonella poisoning causes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 72 hours of exposure.

Read More:

  • Amid Big Salmonella Outbreak, USDA Says It’s On The Job (NPR)
  • Salmonella outbreak in chicken shows resistance to antibiotics (Los Angeles Times)
  • FSIS Issues Public Health Alert for Foster Farms Chicken Products After 278 Salmonella Cases Reported in 18 States (Food Safety News)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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