Foster Farm raw chicken products may have sickened nearly 300 people in 18 states according to a health alert issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The illnesses have been caused by Salmonella Heidelberg, a common strain that causes illness that can be life-threatening in people with weak immune systems such as children, the elderly and those with cancer or HIV infection. Most common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight hours to three days after eating the contaminated product. Chills, headache, nausea and vomiting can last up to a week.

Illnesses were linked to the Foster Farm brand through epidemiologic, laboratory and trace-back methods, FSIS said. But health officials were unable to tie the illnesses to a specific product or a specific production period. They said that the products bear one of three establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package. The numbers are: P6137, P6137A and P7632.

The outbreak is ongoing, FSIS officials said in a statement. No recalls for specific chicken products have been issued.

The raw chicken products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State but illnesses have been reported in 18 states. Those include Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Foster Farm officials said they’ve been working with CDC and FDA to investigate the source of salmonella at their sites. 

They also said salmonella can be present in all raw chicken and that consumers should cook poultry thoroughly – to 165 degrees – to kill any illness-causing bacteria. CDC officials stopped short of advising consumers not to eat the potentially contaminated chicken, but said that proper cooking, hand hygiene and kitchen practices should be followed.

Company officials said that the chicken is safe to eat when properly cooked and handled. Consumers can call the firm's hotline at 800-338-8051 or visit their website at

Sources: JoNel Aleccia,