Here is the question that FSIS, Tyson and Foster Farms should answer:  Why does Tyson recall its product after seven sickened and Foster Farms recalls nothing after 550 sickened in two outbreaks?

According to the FSIS a food recall is a voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to protect the public from products that may cause health problems or possible death.  A recall is intended to remove food products from commerce when there is reason to believe the products may be adulterated or misbranded.  The most serious type of a recall, a Class I recall, involves a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.  The definition for “adulterated” is found in 9 CFR 301.2. Adulterated shall apply to any carcass, part thereof, meat or meat food product under one or more circumstances (for example: if it contains poisonous substances, pesticides, or chemicals; or if it has been prepared under insanitary conditions).

Tyson Salmonella Heidelberg Outbreak AND Recall

The FSIS was notified of a Salmonella Heidelberg cluster of illnesses on Dec. 12, 2013. Working in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), FSIS determined that there is a link between the mechanically separated chicken products from Tyson Foods and the illness cluster in a Tennessee correctional facility. Based on epidemiological and traceback investigations, seven case-patients at the facility have been identified with illnesses, with two resulting in hospitalization. Illness onset dates range from Nov. 29, 2013 to Dec. 5, 2013. FSIS continues to work with TDH on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Tyson Foods, Inc. a Sedalia, Mo., establishment, is recalling approximately 33,840 pounds of mechanically separated chicken products that may be contaminated with a Salmonella Heidelberg strain, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The mechanically separated chicken products were produced on Oct. 11, 2013. The following products are subject to recall: 40-lb. cases, containing four, 10-lb. chubs of “TYSON MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN.” The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “P-13556” inside the USDA mark of inspection with case code 2843SDL1412 – 18. These products were shipped for institutional use only, nationwide. The product is not available for consumer purchase in retail stores.

Foster Farms Salmonella Heidelberg Outbreaks with NO Recalls

Outbreak No. 1:  In July 2013 a total of 134 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg were reported from 13 states.  Collaborative investigative efforts of local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that Foster Farms brand chicken was the most likely source of this outbreak.

Testing conducted by the Washington State Public Health Laboratories identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in four intact samples of chicken collected from three ill persons’ homes in Washington, which were traced back to two Foster Farms slaughter establishments.

Outbreak No 2:  In December 2013 a total of 416 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 23 states and Puerto Rico.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. On October 7, 2013, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) issued a Public Health Alert due to concerns that illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg is associated with chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.

So, setting aside why FSIS does not consider Salmonella an adulterate and does not have the power to order a recall, why does Tyson recall its product after seven sickened and Foster Farms recalls nothing after 550 sickened in two outbreaks?

And, do not think this is an isolated event.

Although, FSIS threatened Foster Farms with taking its inspectors and going home, that did not happen.  Apparently, these letters did the trick – Letters ONETWO and THREE that FSIS sent to Foster Farms – well at least until FSIS found cockroaches and suspended operations.  I did a little searching on and found more that a few example of meat recalls – chicken and beef – due to Salmonella contamination.

Salmonella Enteriditis Due to Contaminated Cargill Ground Beef 2012 40 sick – On July 22, 2012 Cargill Meat Solutions announced a recall of 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products due to possible contamination with Salmonella Enteriditis. Using epidemiologic and traceback data public health investigators in 8 states …Read More »

Hannaford Hamburger Ground Beef 2011 20 sick – On December 16, Hannaford, a Scarborough, Maine-based grocery chain, recalled fresh ground beef products that may have been contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. The recall resulted from an investigation into human illness. By January…Read More »

Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Turkey 2011 136 sick – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert, on July 29, due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that associated with the use and the consumption of ground turkey …Read More »

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 2 sick – In December, Beef Packers, Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled over 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport. The company issued an earlier recall in August, 2009, due to contamination of ground beef …Read More »

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 68 sick – A Beef Packers, Inc. plant in California owned by Cargill, distributed approximately 830,000 pounds of ground beef that was likely contaminated with Salmonella Newport. The beef was shipped to distribution centers …Read More »

Emmpak/Cargill Ground Beef 2002 47 sick – In early 2002, isolates of Salmonella Newport in New York State were found to be resistant to more than nine antibiotics and had a decreased susceptibility to the antibiotic, ceftriaxone. Since 1996, an increasing number of Salmonella NewportRead More »

It cannot be the numbers of sickened.  Frankly, Foster Farms in two outbreaks sickened more that Cargill did in six.