Why Did California Costco Customers Get Salmonella From Cooked Chicken?

Consumers know the drill, or should by now: you can prevent food-borne illnesses by cooking your meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. So how did a Costco customer end up ill from salmonella after eating a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken? The warehouse chain isn’t sure, but has recalled 40,000 pounds of chicken products sold at a single store in California.

Think about that for a minute: one Costco location sold 40,000 pounds of rotisserie chicken and products made from the store’s rotisserie chickens, like soup and chicken salad. Yep, those chickens were part of the Foster Farms batch that has sickened hundreds of people with a scary antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella. The very outbreak that caused the Centers for Disease Control to call furloughed workers back into the office.

As far as Costco knows, only one customer has become ill out of the almost 8,000 households that bought the affected chickens. That’s the nice thing about the warehouse club model: Costco knows who bought what and can contact them. “Say, valued customer, has anyone in your house experienced diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps? No? Whew.”

“It may have been a very, very uncommon cross-contamination issue. We’re still researching,” the Costco executive in charge of food safety told the Los Angeles Times. Cross-contamination in the home is when you do something stupid like put cooked chicken on the cutting board that you used to cut up the raw chicken.

While there’s no official recall of Foster Farms products, Costco has recalled these chickens out of caution, and Kroger has pulled Foster Farms products from its stores. if you’re worried about the outbreak, look for USDA inspection codes P6137, P6137A or P7632 on your chicken. 

Warnings as salmonella strains resist antibiotics [San Francisco Chronicle]
California Wholesale Store Recalls Rotisserie Chicken Products Due to Possible Salmonella Heidelberg Contamination [USDA]