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179 Sickened from Salmonella Tainted Chicken Livers

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The illness toll continues to rise in a Salmonella outbreak linked to tainted chicken livers; 179 have reportedly fallen ill due to the Salmonella Heidelberg pathogen. The contaminated chicken livers were recalled in an action the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) deemed a Class I.

A Class I FSIS recall means that this is a health hazard situation in which there exists a reasonable probability that the use of the recalled product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

As we’ve noted, the FSIS continues to collaborate with states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). MeatPoultry.com noted that collaboration includes public health and agriculture officials in New York, New Jersey, and other states.

The Salmonella Heidelberg infection cluster is linked to Schreiber Processing Corporation’s kosher chicken liver product which is labeled as kosher broiled chicken liver, but which is not ready-to-eat, was only partially cooked, and requires additional cooking prior to consumption.

The most recent outbreak illness figures were released on November 21 by the CDC and reveal that 179 illnesses, due to Salmonella Heidelberg with the outbreak pattern, have been linked to the Schreiber chicken livers, said MeatPoultry.com. In all, 99 illnesses have been reported in New York, 61 in New Jersey, 10 in Pennsylvania, 6 in Maryland, 2 in Ohio, and 1 in Minnesota. This Salmonella Heidelberg strain is different from the Salmonella Heidelberg strain linked to ground turkey recalled this year.

So-called DNA “fingerprinting” is being used by public health investigators to isolate the Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing in collaboration with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). This testing is being used to identify those illness included in this outbreak, said MeatPoultry.com. Investigators are also using PulseNet data, which is, explained MeatPoultry.com, a national sub-typing network comprised of state and local public health labs and federal food regulatory labs; all oversee food borne infection surveillance at a molecular level.

The Salmonella Heidelberg PFGE pattern involved in this outbreak turns up often in the United States; therefore, some cases exhibiting this pattern might not be connected to this outbreak, MeatPoultry.com pointed out.

FSIS’ investigation, to date, reveals that the tainted chicken was distributed to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Florida. Those sickened range from under one year of age to 97 years; the median age is 13, said MeatPoultry.com. About 49% of those sickened are female and, of those on which information is available, 20% have been hospitalized. No deaths have been linked to this outbreak according to current reporting data.

As we’ve mentioned, the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak strain was isolated by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets from samples of Schreiber Processing broiled chicken livers, and chopped chicken livers produced at retail from these livers. The chopped product would have been repackaged and will not bear original packaging information. It remains unclear at this time if this strain has any drug resistance.

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