News Feature | April 11, 2014

FDA Drops The Ball On Foster Farms Recall

By Laurel Maloy, contributing writer, Food Online

FSMA Empowers The FDA

The FDA has not officially published a recall notice for Foster Farms chicken products, despite hundreds of illnesses since the summer of 2013

An internet search for an official FDA recall notice regarding recent issues with Foster Farms has yielded no results. However, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been well aware of this outbreak. 524 people have been sickened with an antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella in 25 states and Puerto Rico. 37 percent of those infected required hospitalization, though no deaths have been reported. Here’s an abbreviated version of the timeline:


June 17: Cluster of illnesses, mostly in California, reported by PulseNet to the CDC. Rare Pulsed-field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern of Salmonella Heidelberg identified

June 28: FSIS is notified by the CDC of its multi-state investigation

July 18: Five different clusters of Salmonella Heidelberg (PFGE Patterns #1 through #5) are combined into a single investigation with a high proportion of ill persons reportedly consuming Foster Farms chicken

July 30: Outbreak Response Team’s test results from CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) lab matches PFGE Patterns #1 and #2, stressing common antibiotic resistance

August 6: Intact leftovers from ill persons in Washington State tests positive for PFGE Pattern #4 and traces back to Foster Farms

August 9: Foster Farms is made aware of the link during a joint conference call with the FSIS and CDC

Oct 7: FSIS issues “Notice of Intended Enforcement” to Foster Farms and concurrently issues a “Public Health Alert”, advising consumers to handle chicken safely

Oct 8: The CDC posts the first announcement on the web regarding the investigation

Oct 12 & 17: FSIS issues a news release of a Class I recall for 23,136 cooked rotisserie chickens sold at a single Costco store, citing potential cross-contamination after cooking.


Apr 7: CDC posts Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to Foster Farms Brand Chicken

There are a number of glaring facts — it took almost two months for the illnesses to be traced back to Foster Farms and it was another two days before Foster Farms was informed. Two full months later, the “enforcement” notice and Public Health Alert are issued and the CDC posts it on the web.

Check out how monitoring the supply chain in real time can improve food safety

Six months later it finally makes the headlines. If there is one example that points to the need for a better system for transparency, accountability, traceability, and improved safety within our food chain, this is it.