The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert this week that hundreds of people in 18 states have come down with Salmonella poisoning. An unusually large number of them have needed hospitalization. The source is apparently chicken from Foster Farms. The outbreak is particularly worrisome because the strain of salmonella involved is resistant to some common antibiotics.
This outbreak comes at a challenging time for public health officials. Many workers at the CDC have been furloughed because of the government shutdown. The agency also had to close down its national computer network that collects data from 87 public health laboratories around the country and offers early warning signals on food-borne illnesses and other types of infections.
It is discouraging that Foster Farms has not recalled the affected products. Instead, they point to the need for consumers to cook all chicken until it is well done (at least 165 degrees F on the meat thermometer) and to wash hands and surfaces that touch raw chicken scrupulously. Those are always wise precautions, since it is not possible to tell at a glance whether or not a chicken has been infected with Salmonella.