New York City and federal health officials are urging consumers to handle raw chicken carefully after an outbreak of salmonella poisoning struck 17 people in four states, sickening five city residents and killing one of them.
The illnesses, which occurred between Sept. 25 and June 4 in Maryland, New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, are linked to Empire Kosher brand chicken products, local and federal officials said.
“The Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to Empire Kosher Brand Chicken products,” New York City’s Health Department said in a statement released Thursday. “Five patients who contracted Salmonella are from New York City, including one who has died.
"The Health Department reminds residents to always handle raw chicken carefully and to cook it to an internal temperature of 165 fahrenheit to prevent food poisoning.”
City officials said two of the five victims were hospitalized by the bacteria that has been found in samples taken from two facilities, including one that processes Empire Kosher chicken.
“If you have this product in your home, handle it carefully and cook it thoroughly,” the statement continued, also advising food preparers to wash hands thoroughly before and after touching chicken.
“Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw chicken,” the advisory said. “If possible, use one cutting board for raw chicken and other raw meats, and another for vegetables.”
Empire Kosher, of Mifflintown, Pennsylvania issued a statement saying it was complying with officials investigating the outbreak.
“The CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating Empire® brand chicken and no products have been recalled or withdrawn from the marketplace,” read the company’s statement. “As with any poultry, when handled and prepared properly, including thoroughly cooking as instructed, our products pose no risk to consumers . . . Empire® brand, along with the USDA and the CDC, want to remind consumers of safe handling practices for all raw chicken. When handled and cooked properly to 165°F, consumers can continue to have full confidence in chicken products.”
Nassau County reports two cases of salmonella illness related to Empire Kosher chicken, according to Mary Ellen Laurain, Nassau Department of Health spokeswoman. It was unclear Thursday evening whether Suffolk County had any cases.
New York health officials said symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps appearing between 12 and 72 hours after exposure. The illness lasts from four to seven days and most people recover without treatment.
Senior citizens and very young children are particularly vulnerable, however.