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Salmonella-tainted chicken killed 1, sickened 17 in multi-state outbreak, CDC says

Illustration of salmonella. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (CDC)

One person has died and 17 others were sickened in a multi-state outbreak linked to salmonella-tainted chicken, federal health officials said Wednesday. The illnesses occurred between Sept. 25, 2017, and June 4.

The death occurred in New York state, with the other victims sickened in an area stretching down the Mid-Atlantic to Virginia. The person who died was among eight hospitalized for the illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Some victims told investigators that they ate Empire Kosher-brand chicken. The particular strain of salmonella was traced to raw chicken samples at two facilities, including one that processes Empire products, the CDC said.

Authorities are not warning people at this time to stay away from any particular chicken, CDC spokeswoman Brittany Behm said, and Empire Kosher said in a statement that none of its products are being recalled. But health officials also are not sure whether they have accounted for everyone who was sickened in that period.

“It may be too early to tell,” Behm told The Washington Post.

“We are shocked and saddened to have just learned there may have been a death potentially related to a Salmonella outbreak and we extend our sympathies to anyone affected,” Empire Kosher wrote in the statement released through its public relations agency. “While we have no data that connects this tragic event to our products, we have been cooperating fully. ... We take food safety and the health of our consumers very seriously and any illness, even potentially linked to our products, is unacceptable. We continue to very aggressively work to ensure the quality and safety of our products.”

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It is unclear when the person died from the illness. The CDC referred further questions to the New York State Department of Health, which first uncovered the outbreak of salmonella illness and alerted federal health officials. New York state health officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is investigating the contamination. On Friday, the agency issued an alert out of an “abundance of caution,” advising consumers about the illnesses.

Salmonellosis can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours of consumption of contaminated products, the agency said.

In July, at least 90 people reported illnesses during an outbreak of salmonella illness linked to raw turkey products. That followed an April recall of 200 million eggs out of fears that a contamination sickened nearly two dozen people.

The CDC has compiled a list of best practices to avoid infections:

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing any food, especially raw meat, as well as all preparation areas, including counter tops and cutting boards. Also wash your hands after petting animals or using the restroom.
  • Cook raw meat thoroughly.
  • Do not feed raw food to pets.

In its statement, Empire Kosher wrote that it, “along with the USDA and CDC, want to remind consumers of safe handling practices for raw chicken. When handled and cooked properly to 165°F, consumers can continue to have full confidence in chicken products.”

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