17 People Made Ill in Four States and One Dead in New York from Empire Kosher Chicken Salmonella Outbreak

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a health alert for the raw chicken products that were produced and sold from September 2017 to June 2018

What to Know

  • A possible salmonella contamination prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to issue a health alert
  • A number of salmonella illnesses within the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states linked the cluster to Empire Kosher brand raw chicken items
  • The raw chicken items were allegedly produced and sold to consumers from September 2017 to June 2018

Seventeen people in four states have come down with salmonella-related illnesses from kosher chicken, and one person in New York has died, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday.

The CDC said several of the ill people reported eating Empire-brand Kosher chicken before being sick.

Of the 17 cases, 11 are in New York, four are in Pennsylvania and one each happened in Maryland and Virginia. Those sickened with salmonella ranged in ages from 76 years old to less than a year old. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) already issued a health alert on Aug. 24 about Empire Kosher brand raw chicken items.

The raw chicken items, which may include raw whole chicken and raw chicken parts, were allegedly produced and sold to consumers from September 2017 to June 2018.

Empire, in a statement on its website, said it was "shocked and saddened" to learn of the salmonella-related death. It also said it has "no data that connects this tragic event to our products" but that it was cooperating with the FSIS and CDC investigations. 

Eating food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses, according to the FSIS. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product, according to the FSIS, which adds that the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.

While most people recover without treatment, others have such severe diarrhea that the patient needs to be hospitalized.

Additionally, the FSIS says, older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness, however, any individual who is concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS and CDC urge consumers who have purchased these products to properly handle, prepare and cook them by safely preparing the raw meat products, regardless if they are fresh or frozen, and only eat chicken products that have been cooked to a temperature of 165°F.

Consumers should take proper precautions when handling raw chicken products by washing after handling raw poultry, meat and eggs, according to FSIS, adding that this step can reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination to other foods and kitchen surfaces. Additionally, one should wash counter tops and sinks with soapy, hot water.

Consumers can contact an Empire Kosher Specialist at 1-877-627-2803 with any questions.

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