Five-state Salmonella outbreak linked to chicken livers

Nov 9, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – A New York food processor has recalled broiled chicken liver products that have been linked to at least 169 Salmonella Heidelberg infections in five states, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state health departments.

The recall applies to an undetermined amount of broiled chicken livers produced by Schreiber Processing Corp., based in Maspeth, N.Y., the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said yesterday in a statement.

It said the products appear to be ready to eat but are partially cooked and need to be fully cooked before eaten. It said illnesses have also been linked to chopped liver made from the product and sold at retail stores.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDHMH) said today that it has identified 56 Salmonella infections in the city linked to the company's MealMart brand kosher broiled chicken livers. It said illnesses have also been identified in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Minnesota.

In addition, 33 more cases have been identified in the state outside New York City, Peter Constantakes, a spokesman with the New York State Department of Health, told CIDRAP News. He added that the patients are from nine different upstate counties and that five were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) said today that it has identified 64 cases with links to the recalled products. It said most of the sick patients are from Ocean County. Donna Leusner, the department's spokeswoman, told CIDRAP News that about 11% of the patients were hospitalized and 48% are female.

Maryland health officials have received reports of nine cases linked to the outbreak, including seven adults and two children, according to an e-mail response from Karen Black, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She said the cases occurred from late March to early September and that no deaths or hospitalizations have been reported.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) has confirmed seven outbreak-related cases that occurred from April through August, according to Tom Hostetter, a press aide at the PDH.

New York City's health department said it identified a pattern of people reporting that they ate kosher broiled chicken livers or chopped liver before they got sick, and investigators recently confirmed that Salmonella Heidelberg infections identified from February through November had the same genetic fingerprint. The NYCDHMH said 12 people were hospitalized.

The FSIS said testing by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets identified the outbreak strain in samples of the company's broiled chicken livers and in samples of chopped liver made from the same products.

The products were sold in 10-pound boxes that contained two 5-pound bags of chicken livers made for further processing or loose-packed broiled chicken livers. The NYCDHMH warned that the broiled chicken livers are often repackaged and sold in smaller quantities or are used to prepare chopped liver sold at deli-style establishments.

According to an NYCDHMH list of facilities that received the recalled products, most are in New York or New Jersey. However, the broiled chicken livers were also shipped to two cities in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland, and one in Minnesota.

The FSIS said the pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg does not match the one linked to a recall earlier this year involving ground turkey. It's not known yet if the outbreak strain has any drug resistance

Though Salmonella Heidelberg is one of the most common serotypes linked with human infections in the United States, some strains are resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said resistant strains can lead to more hospitalizations and difficult-to-treat infections. The FSIS said it would issue a notification if it finds any evidence of drug resistance.

See also:

Nov 8 USDA press release

Nov 9 NYCDHMH press release

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