A salmonella outbreak in Foster Farms chicken contains several antibiotic-resistant strains that may explain an unusually high rate of hospitalization.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that some salmonella strains found in the outbreak were resistant to one or more drugs — and that 42% of those sickened have been hospitalized.
“That’s about double the hospitalization rate of a regular salmonella outbreak,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert Monday linking some raw chicken products produced in California to a salmonella outbreak.
The agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found chicken produced by Foster Farms at three California facilities with strains of Salmonella Heidelberg.
So far, 278 illnesses have been reported in 18 states, with 77% of those cases occurring in California, according to the CDC.
The outbreak has sickened people ranging in age from an infant to 93 years old, the CDC said.
Investigators have yet to trace the illnesses to a specific product or production period, but said that raw items from the plants in question will bear one of the establishment numbers P6137, P6137A or P7632.
Most of the chicken was distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington, according to the USDA. Foster Farms said in a statement that no recall is in effect and that products are safe to eat if properly handled and fully cooked.