The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert Monday afternoon, saying it had linked some raw chicken products produced in California to a salmonella outbreak.
The agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said it had associated 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 most cases occurring in California. The outbreak is ongoing, according to the USDA.
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.
“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family-owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its near 80-year history,” said Foster Farms President Ron Foster in the statement.
Salmonellosis is among the most common of bacterial food-borne illnesses and can be life-threatening, especially when it hits victims with weak immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of consumption.
Cooking poultry so that the meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill salmonella.