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By Miriam Raftery

July 9, 2014 (Fresno) -- At least 621 people in 29 states have been sickened by a salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chickens.   The government has  ordered a shut down of one of the company’s facilities in California and a voluntary recall has been issued by the company on chicken products sold at major retail outlets including large grocery store chains as well as military bases.

The outbreak has gone on for 16 months, but the company did not agree to recall most products until early July.  The outbreak includes seven strains of a drug-resistant form of salmonella that makes infections hard to treat.  Almost 40 percent of the victims have been hospitalized and 13 percent developed serious bloodstream infections, NBC news reports.

The recalled products include fresh chicken products sold by retailers under Foster Farms or private label brand names, with varying “use or freeze by”dates ranging from March 16 through March 31, 2014, and frozen Sunland Chicken products with “best by” dates from March 7 through March 11, 2015.

Before that, back in January, a Foster Farms was briefly closed down after government inspectors found cockroaches in the facility, which can spread bacteria.

The company has claimed that products are safe if handled effectively, meaning keeping surfaces used for cooking and preparation clean and thoroughly cooking the chicken products.

But as illnesses mount, calls for greater accountability are mounting. So Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro and Louise Slaughter are now asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to close down all Foster Farms facilities until the health issues are resolved.

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I used to bake or BBQ chicken but stopped years ago. This from Consumer Reports: "What’s going on with the nation’s most popular meat? (Americans buy an estimated 83 pounds per capita annually.) Though 48 million people fall sick every year from eating food tainted with salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, and other contaminants, “more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity,” according to an analysis of outbreaks from 1998 through 2008 by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s what you should know before buying your next package of chicken."