More cases reported in chicken Salmonella outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control said on Friday that more Salmonella cases have been linked to raw chicken processed at three Foster Farm plants in California, bringing the total number of cases to 338 illnesses in 20 states and Puerto Rico.

According to an update posted on the CDC website Friday afternoon, the new illnesses were reported in Arizona, California and Oregon -- states which had already reported people sick from the multi drug -resistant Salmonella Heidelberg strain.

Health officials say three out of four of the cases have been traced to consumers in California. CDC says its staff is business analyzing outbreak information, as the investigation continues at the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

According to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service spokesman Aaron Lavallee, inspectors remain at the three Foster Farm plants in Fresno and Livingston for ongoing monitoring and random sampling to record bacteria levels in various raw chicken parts.

Lavallee says the USDA continues to get questions about the lack of recall at the plants and says it it's a matter of federal regulations. The way federal laws are written, Lavallee says the agency's move to order a recall would not be upheld legally unless the USDA could either prove the existence of unsanitary conditions, which has not yet happened, or tie the outbreaks to a specific chicken product coming from the plants. The USDA says that's what investigators are working on.

In the meantime, the Foster Farm plants continue to operate and the only recalls connected to the salmonella outbreak as of October 18th involve ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken sold at a Costco store in San Francisco.