Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella in Chicken Sickens 92 (Source Consumer Reports)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced another widespread salmonella outbreak—this time in raw chicken products. There have been 14 multi-state salmonella outbreaks already in 2018, including ground beef, melon, eggs, Honey Smacks cereal, and kosher chicken. What’s particularly concerning about this latest food poisoning alert is that the strain of salmonella involved is resistant to multiple types of antibiotic drugs, making it more difficult to treat. So far, 92 people in 29 states have gotten sick after eating contaminated chicken, and 22 have been hospitalized. The states where illnesses have been reported are: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
The first illness was reported in January 2018, and the CDC started investigating in May. Nevertheless, there are still many unanswered questions about the source and cause of the outbreak. “This has been a difficult investigation,” says Colin Basler, D.V.M., M.P.H., a veterinary epidemiologist with the CDC who is part of the investigatory team. “We’ve isolated the bacteria to raw chicken products from 58 different slaughter facilities, but besides that we have not been able to pinpoint a brand or a purchase location, or even a particular type of product.”
Many types of raw chicken have been connected to this outbreak, including whole chicken, chicken parts, ground chicken and even some raw ground-chicken pet food that one victim fed to his dog. Another victim became sick after coming into contact with someone who raises or processes chicken for a living. Basler says the salmonella contamination in this outbreak likely happened “upstream” from the slaughtering facilities, meaning a farm or other facility where chickens are raised. As of now, no specific facility has been pinpointed—and it appears unlikely any will be found soon, he says. The last reported illness was on September 19, though the CDC anticipates logging more cases in coming weeks.
The CDC was waiting to release information until it could be more specific in its advice to consumers, according to Basler. But because new cases kept coming in—and because contaminated chicken could still be on supermarket shelves now—the agency decided it needed to remind the public of safe handling and cooking practices.
So the chicken, even if it’s contaminated, can still be eaten as long as it’s handled and cooked properly.
“Raw meat products always present some degree of risk,” Basler says. “We want to make sure people are washing their hands and preparation surfaces especially carefully, and always cooking their chicken to 165 degrees.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), in a release, was strongly critical of the CDC and the Department of Agriculture, saying, in part: “Five years ago to the day, I wrote a letter with my former colleague, the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, to CDC and USDA regarding their mismanaged investigation and lack of action in response to an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella that contaminated chicken products across the country.
“Now, five years later, CDC has informed the public of another outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella in chicken that has been going on since January. The federal government and the poultry industry need to take this problem seriously. Déjà vu is not an acceptable policy for dealing with food safety.”