SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health has identified two cases tied to the Foster Farms salmonella outbreak.
The cases are from April and May, and it's unknown where the two victims picked up the strain. The health department Wednesday could only confirm that lab test results matched results from other people involved in the outbreak.
So far, nearly 300 people have been infected in 18 states, with 77 percent of those cases occurring in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Associated Press reported that four of the seven salmonella strains found in the outbreak were resistant to one or more drugs and that 42 percent of those sickened have been hospitalized.
A public health alert has been issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, warning consumers of Foster Farms raw chicken to be aware of the outbreak. The raw products in question were made at three California sites and have one of three numbers on them: P6137, P6137A or P7632.
Salem resident Art Biggers said he almost died from salmonella poisoning when he was 14 years old.
“I know how awful it is, and I don't want anyone to go through this,” Biggers said.
That's why he checks every time he hears about a recall. He said he was surprised to find the Foster Farms 10-pound bag of frozen chicken breast he bought from the Spanish Fork Costco had the number P6137A on it.
Biggers said he has eaten a lot of that chicken.
“Thank goodness my wife always cooks things thoroughly,” he said.
Most of the chicken was distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington, according to the USDA. No recall is in effect.
The USDA on Wednesday threatened to shut down the three facilities where the chicken in question was processed. The Associated Press reported the company had until Thursday to tell the department how it planned to fix the problem.
In a letter to Foster Farms, USDA said samples collected from the facilities had strains of salmonella that were linked to the outbreak, and those samples coupled with illnesses suggest that the sanitary conditions at the facility "could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health."
"We are taking every possible step to ensure the current and future safety of our chicken products," the Foster Farms letter read. "Food safety is, and has always been, at the heart of our business. I am deeply sorry for any illness associated with Foster Farms chicken and for any concern or confusion caused by this week's activity.
"Foster Farms chicken is safe to eat but, as with all raw chicken, consumers must use proper preparation, handling and cooking practices."
Salmonella is a pathogen that contaminates meat during slaughter and processing, and is especially common in raw chicken.
The Utah Department of Health stresses the key is prevention — handling and cooking the chicken properly and keeping other foods from being contaminated.
Contributing: Mary Richards and Devon Dolan