There is a salmonella outbreak and health officials are encouraging consumers to thoroughly cook their chicken before consumption. The outbreak was first noticed in March, and the USDA was notified of the illness in July. The delay in notification stems from investigators having difficulties pinpointing the cause of the illness.
Raw chicken packaged at three Foster Farms facilities in California was determined to be the culprit, and 278 people have become ill due to the Heidelberg strain of salmonella. The strains were associated with chicken distributed in the California region, which is also where the predominate number of salmonella cases have been reported. People from 18 states have become ill from this outbreak, with symptoms including stomach sickness, chills, headaches, and muscle pain. Untreated, the illness and infection can spread through the bloodstream and possibly cause death.
The outbreak has come at a bad time, with the Republican shut-down preventing Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials to get to their lab, most notably PulseNet. PulseNet is a national network of public health laboratories operated by the CDC that looks for genetic trends and reports to help identify otherwise hard-to-see outbreaks. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, stated that not having PulseNet was producing "an imminent threat to health and safety," a finding that allowed the government to bring back seven employees to the local lab.
There is currently no recall in place for chicken from Foster Farms or any other farms, as the outbreak is suspected to be from under cooked or improper handling of chicken. Cooks are advised to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and those handling food should wash their hands often when touching chicken and other raw meats.
In the early part of this decade, Taco Bell was linked to multiple salmonella outbreaks. The CDC indicated that the problem likely occurred at the supplier level before the food was delivered to the restaurant chains. In addition to fighting bad press, the outbreaks forced the company to close locations, sterilize from floor to ceiling, and bring in fresh product from alternate suppliers.
Take a look at what the Taco Bell cases indicate. A negligent or otherwise at-fault supplier submits a faulty product, which has a negative impact on the primary business' customers. That primary business then suffers direct -- paying to repair, cleanse, restock, etc. -- and indirect -- lost business from negative press. In the case of disease, it is something that can be rectified during a risk analysis by specifying testing procedures above and beyond those required by the FDA. The possibility of financial harm is something that should also be addressed in the specific contract language for those suppliers.
It would be in the best interests of restaurants and food businesses to re-examine their supply chain to ensure precautions are in place in the event of disease, which can kill business reputation and profits, in addition to customers!