Chicken livers recalled after salmonella outbreak

November 9, 2011 2:25:00 PM PST
MealMart has issued a recall of its kosher broiled chicken livers after the New York City Health Department traced 56 cases of salmonella bacteria-related illness in New York City back to the company's factories in Maspeth, N.Y.

Even though they were labeled as "broiled", the chicken livers were not thoroughly cooked and were not safe to eat without additional cooking. Salmonella illness has also been linked to chopped liver made from this uncooked product as many stores often re-package the meat and sell it in smaller quantities.

The Health Department says the company hasn't done anything wrong, but that customers are not following the directions on the package which states the chicken livers need to be cooked further.

The salmonella Heidelberg strain found in this case is a common bacteria associated with food poisoning in humans. Of the 56 people who were diagnosed with infection from this strain in New York City, 12 were hospitalized. Infections have also been identified in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Minnesota.

The Health Department recognized a pattern of people reporting that they ate kosher broiled chicken livers or chopped liver before their illness began and this past week confirmed that the cases of salmonella Heidelberg identified during the period of February through November 2011 had a common DNA "fingerprint."

Symptoms of salmonella infection usually begin 12 to 72 hours after exposure and include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps and fever. Most people recover without treatment but in some persons, diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is necessary.

In rare cases, salmonella infection can lead to death, particularly in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems. Each year, 1,200 to 1,300 cases of Salmonella are diagnosed in New York City.

To avoid salmonella illness and contaminating other foods with it, wash hands, utensils and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat and before they touch other food.

Also remember to cook meat thoroughly and to put it on a clean platter rather than on the one that was used to hold raw meat.

For specific retailers that sell these products and other establishments associated with this outbreak within these communities, visit the salmonella outbreak link on the NYC Health Department's website. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has also posted information about this recall on the USDA website.