There's a widespread salmonella outbreak, but the CDC is shut down
On Monday night, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a public health alert for raw chicken packaged in California. The chicken has been linked to nearly 300 salmonella cases across 18 different states, a widespread outbreak that appears to have begun in March.
According to a spokesperson from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, investigators have “had a difficult time pinpointing the source of the illnesses.” And now, as the government shutdown has furloughed the vast majority of the nation’s public health officials, it won’t be any easier to trace the salmonella strain.
As NBC News reports, the USDA and CDC can’t provide many details about the latest outbreak “because of limited staffing caused by a week-long government shutdown.” So far, the two agencies do know that the chicken in question was packaged at three facilities owned by Foster Farms, the same company that was the source of a different salmonella outbreak earlier this year. They believe it was mainly distributed to outlets in California, Oregon, and Washington state — but they haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the strain to a particular product or a specific time period.
State health officials in California are still able to work, and are encouraging residents to make sure they’re fully cooking their chicken in order to kill potential bacteria. But the CDC, which typically monitors multi-state outbreaks of food poisoning, has been forced to scale back to a “skeletal crew” during the current shutdown. All but two of the CDC’s health officials who typically analyze foodborne pathogens have been furloughed.
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