Foster Farms Chicken: Salmonella Contamination, NO Recall

A farmer is not able to tell if a chicken has salmonella, as chickens do not show any symptoms. Image by Thegreenj.

Farmers can’t tell if a chicken has salmonella, as chickens do not show any symptoms. Image by Thegreenj

Three chicken processing plants, owned by Foster Farms, have been linked to cases of salmonella poisoning. These three California facilities have remained open despite 278 cases of salmonella poisoning. According to the NY Times, 80 percent of these cases are in California, but the others span across 18 states.

This is not the first time Foster Farms has been linked to salmonella, in fact, just recently this past July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked 134 cases to Foster Farms. These cases dated back to June 2012 and 33 people required hospitalization.

The surprising part of all of this, is that these three plants remain open and working, despite the salmonella outbreak.

Salmonella-Contaminated Chicken Farms: Open for Business?

Earlier this week, regulators threatened to shut down Foster Farms, but left them open. On Thursday, October 10, 2013, the Agricultural Department said that Foster Farms has made,“immediate substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations,” according to the NY York Times. Inspectors will continue to monitor and inspect the poultry for the next three months. The outbreak began in March and reports of illnesses have been reported in the last two weeks.

This particular strain of salmonella that people have contracted by eating Foster Farms chicken has left almost half (42 percent) in the hospital, which is about double the normal rate for salmonella poisoning. Making matters worse, this strain of salmonella is resistant to many antibiotics.

No Chicken Recalls

Despite the fact that this is the second time Foster Farms has been linked to salmonella poisoning and that this particular strain is resistant to antibiotics, neither Foster Farms nor the U.S. Government are issuing a recall of the chicken.

According to Foster Farm’s website, since the Department of Health isn’t making them recall the chicken, they’re continuing to sell and produce as usual.

The CDPH has not requested Foster Farms to recall chickens because, with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption. Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present. Cooking chicken fully to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the bacteria present. Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume.”

Chickens can become infected with salmonella at any point during their lives. Image by HerbertT

Chickens can become infected with salmonella at any point during their lives. Image by HerbertT

Where Salmonella Infection Come From?

Sometimes chickens can have salmonella in their intestinal tract. The chicken’s fecal matter is then contaminated with salmonella. Other animals and chickens can get infected with salmonella when they eat contaminated feed, or when they peck at the soil that is contaminated. So how does salmonella go from the intestinal tract of a chicken to your dinner plate? The carcass of the chicken (breast, thigh, etc) can become contaminated with fecal matter during slaughtering, according to Oklahoma State University.

Chicken Dangers: Cook Thoroughly and Wash Carefully if You Choose Potentially-contaminated Chicken

Salmonella poisoning can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and fever within a few days of eating contaminated chicken. If you have a weakened immune system, you may need hospitalization to treat the illness.

To help prevent salmonella poisoning, you should make sure your chicken is thoroughly cooked – to 165 degrees Fahrenheit – wash all kitchen utensils such as knives, cutting boards with soap and water, and wash your hands with soap and water after preparing raw chicken.


Foster Farms. Foster Farms And FSIS Reach Agreement, California Plants Remain Open. (2013). Accessed October 11, 2013.

NY Times. Chicken Plants in Salmonella Outbreak Can Stay Open. (2013). Accessed October 11, 2013.

Oklahoma State University. That is a good question – Salmonella and Poultry. Accessed October 11, 2013.

Washington Post. Salmonella stays with chickens, from birth to kitchen. (2011). Accessed October 11, 2013.

© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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    RAW? Good Grief and Well, Duh! Who eats RAW chicken? If cooked and prepared correctly you will have no fears and a product that is healthy. Again , DUH.

    • DakotaNM57 says

      Nowhere.. not one place was eating raw chicken mentioned. The only mention was making sure to cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
      You mentioned if prepared and cooked properly you’d have no fears and would be consuming a healthy product. This isn’t always the case. It fully depends on the level of contamination.

      • arthur p kaske says

        I have been eating chicken since 1952, on a regular basis, no less than twice a month, and, not once, I repeat, not once have I been sick because of this practice. I know that MOST ALL chickens carry salmonella, so don’t start with “levels of contamination” as if we are dealing with poison, as you suggest. Chickens can live with salmonella, whereas, humans can’t, it is as simple as that. Don’t bite the heads off the live chickens, and don’t eat them if there is blood coming from them after you cook them, and you will not get sick, stupid! All meat contains deadly bacteria: salomnella, trichinosis, etc., wherefore, it is in the best interest of humans not to eat it raw, that includes fish, but, do we heed the warnings of the CDC? Stupid is as stupid does, or is it, stupid does as stupid is?

        • DakotaNM57 says

          ” Don’t bite the heads off the live chickens, don’t eat them if there is blood coming from them after you cook them, and you will not get sick, stupid! ”
          Are you always so rude and use such extremes as biting the head off a chicken to make your point? To note: It isn’t likely you’d contract salmonella poisoning by biting the head off a chicken. The salmonella is in their intestines. The head and intestinal tract aren’t connected.

          And yes, levels of contamination DO matter. As you and the article pointed out “some” chicken carry Salmonella in their intestines. Interesting that when the levels reach a certain point poultry and poultry products are recalled. It’s during the slaughtering process that salmonella bacteria contained in the chicken’s feces is passed to the meat itself. Until that contamination takes place the meat itself carries no salmonella bacteria.

          The majority of the time handling and cooking properly will eliminate the danger of these bacteria. But not in all cases.

          Notice I was able to make my point without once reducing myself to insulting name calling and label application?
          One thing though.. you used wherefore improperly.


        Uh, Ok, now I remember the word “raw” appeared in the headline of another website that addressed this same Issue. Yet and still I was a cook in the military so I am aware that fish, any kind of poultry, and pork products have to be prepared as well done with no “pink” in the center. Chicken thighs and drumsticks when cut open to the bone could have no fresh blood on it. And recently even beef is becoming touchy for those who like their meat from rare to medium. I go for medium now but I used to like my beef slightly singed on bothe sides that when you stuck your fork in it it still mooed. And your game animals should also be well done.

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