Federal authorities issued a public health alert Friday over raw chicken products possibly contaminated by Salmonella.
The Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. products affected -- which may include raw whole chicken, raw chicken parts, -- were produced and sold to consumers from last September until this past June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said.
The agency issued the alert "out of an abundance of caution due to concerns about Salmonella illnesses reported in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States that may be associated with raw chicken products."
"Working in conjunction with public health partners, FSIS determined that there is a potential link between Empire Kosher brand raw chicken products and this illness cluster," the agency wrote. "Based on available epidemiological information, multiple case-patients have been identified in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, many of whom reported consumption of Empire Kosher brand chicken products.
"Approximately half of affected case-patients have been hospitalized due to illness with illness onset dates ranging from September 2017 to June 2018. FSIS continues to work with the company and public health partners and will provide updated information should it become available."
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses.
The most common symptoms: diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product.
The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.
Most people recover without treatment. For some, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.
"Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness," the service warned. "Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their healthcare provider".
The FSIS is concerned that some products may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. Those who've bought these products "are urged to properly handle, prepare, and cook these raw chicken products," the service said.
The FSIS "advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume chicken products that have been cooked to a temperature of 165°F.
"The only way to confirm that chicken is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature," the service said.
Consumers also "should take proper precautions" when handling raw chicken products, the service urged.
"Proper hand washing after handling raw poultry, meat and eggs can greatly reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination to other foods and kitchen surfaces," it said. "It is important to prevent cross-contamination from raw poultry juices by washing counter tops and sinks with hot, soapy water.
Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov .
The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.
The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem .
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