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Costco recalls more rotisserie chicken over salmonella risk

A Costco wholesale store in South San Francisco, Calif., is recalling at least 47,000 more pounds of rotisserie chicken and products made with the cooked bird — including foods sold directly to consumers through Oct. 15 — because they may be contaminated with salmonella linked to an ongoing outbreak.

U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety officials say it appears that the chicken was contaminated in the store's preparation area after cooking. The recall comes less than a week after the single Costco store at 1600 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, recalled about 40,000 pounds of cooked chicken and products tied to an outbreak associated with Foster Farms chicken that has sickened at least 338 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico.

The new recall includes 13,455 Kirkland Signature Foster Farms rotisserie chickens and 638 units of Kirkland Farm rotisserie chicken soup, cooked chicken leg quarters and chicken salad. The products were sold between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15, according to a notice issued Thursday by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

The previous recall included 8,730 chickens and 313 units of prepared foods sold between Sept. 11 and Sept. 23. The birds weigh between 3 pounds and 4 pounds apiece, according to Craig Wilson, Costco's vice president of food safety. Based on a 3.5-pound chicken, that's an estimate of 47,000 pounds.

Costco's birds are typically cooked to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, well above the 165 degrees needed to kill salmonella bacteria, Wilson said. But cross-contamination can occur from other sources. In this case, the bacteria could have been splashed as workers mopped floors or could have been transferred when a worker got bacteria from a raw bird on a smock and the transferred it to the cooked chicken, Wilson said. The firm has changed cleaning and smock-changing procedures in response. 

"I am highly confident that this is the solution," Wilson said. Costco directly notified about 19,000 members who bought rotisserie chicken affected by the recall. 

Inspectors say the cooked chicken was tainted with a rare type of Salmonella heidelberg not normally found in the U.S., one of seven strains associated with an ongoing outbreak linked to raw Foster Farms chicken parts. 

Illnesses associated with eating the Costco chicken are part of a larger outbreak tied to three Foster Farms production sites in Fresno and Livingston, Calif. USDA officials issued a public health alert for raw chicken made by the firms this month and threatened to close the sites by withholding inspections. But Foster Farms agreed to fix the problems that led to the contamination and federal officials agreed to allow the sites to remain open. 

No recall has been issued for the production lots of Foster Farms chicken identified originally in the USDA's alert. The lot numbers would be included in the USDA inspection symbol or elsewhere on the package: P6137, P6137A and P7632.

Foster Farms officials could issue a voluntary recall, but they've chosen not to, saying that their 
products have been inspected by the USDA and are safe to eat if handled properly and cooked
thoroughly. 

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tracking the outbreak, which has sent more than 40 percent of victims to hospitals, about twice the typical rate for salmonella illnesses. The strains of salmonella detected in the outbreak are drug resistant and have caused illnesses in people that are hard to treat with some first-line antibiotics. 

JoNel Aleccia is a senior health reporter with NBC News. Follow her on Twitter at @JoNel_Aleccia or send her an email.