Likely linked to Foster Farms chicken.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in many states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. Public health investigators are using DNA “fingerprints” of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. They are using data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

Since June 4, 2012, a total of 124 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 12 states. Most of the ill persons have been reported from two states, Washington (56) and Oregon (38). At this time, CDC is not releasing the names of the other states until it is determined how these illnesses are linked to this outbreak.

Among 124 persons for whom information is available, illness onset dates range from June 4, 2012, to January 6, 2013. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 94 years, with a median age of 23 years. Fifty-five percent of ill persons are female. Among 97 persons with available information, 31 (32%) reported being hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

In the Spring of 2011, we decided to fund yet another bacterial test on retail meat – this time chicken. All the chicken in the 100 chicken IEH Labs survey, which included whole fryers and packages of chicken parts, were collected and tested from March 1 to April 4 from Seattle area grocery stores. The chicken was purchased from Fred Meyer, Safeway, QFC, Whole Foods, Costco, Sam’s Club, Albertsons, Thriftway, PCC Natural Markets and Ken’s Market stores.

IEH Labs found S. aurea, or staph, in 42 percent of the samples overall and Campylobacter in 65 percent. The supermarket chicken was contaminated with other pathogens as well: 19 percent of the samples tested positive for Salmonella, one tested positive for Listeria, and 10 percent showed the presence of the methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). In an unusual finding, one of the chicken samples tested positive for E. coli 026, Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) bacteria more likely to be a contaminant of beef than poultry. Organic Chicken proved to be slightly less contaminated than nonorganic with 7 of the 13 (54%) testing positive for harmful bacteria.