Food & Drink

The chicken is kosher. The salmonella linked to the chicken, not so much.

A public health alert has been issued concerning Empire Kosher products after investigating “multiple salmonella illnesses within the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States,” according to the USDA.

Wednesday’s update from the Centers for Disease Control said there were 17 cases of salmonella in four states -- New York (11), Pennsylvania (four), Maryland and Virginia (one each). Eight of those people were hospitalized, according to the CDC. There was one death.

A 50 percent hospitalization rate or anything near it for salmonella counts as phenomenally high. While salmonella hits 1.2 million Americans each year, according to the CDC, only 23,000 (1.9 percent) get hospitalized and 450 (0.03 percent) die.

Usually, salmonella means four to seven days of diarrhea, cramps and fever. Those affected more harshly usually are senior citizens, infants or people with damaged immune systems.

Empire e-mailed a statement to the Miami Herald Wednesday night:

“We are shocked and saddened to have just learned there may have been a death potentially related to a salmonella outbreak and we extend our sympathies to anyone affected. While we have no data that connects this tragic event to our products, we have been cooperating fully with the United States Department of Agriculture – Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they investigate a multistate Salmonella outbreak. We take food safety and the health of our consumers very seriously and any illness, even potentially linked to our products, is unacceptable. We continue to very aggressively work to ensure the quality and safety of our products.”

Empire’s statement points out no food has been recalled and following CDC and USDA recommendations for chicken preparation should keep consumers safe.

The possibly contaminated Empire Kosher products were sold from September 2017 through June 2018. Some of that chicken might still be in home freezers, thus the alert.

According to the alert, USDA-FSIS learned of the illnesses June 18. Many of those sick “reported consumption of Empire Kosher brand chicken products. Approximately half of affected case-patients have been hospitalized due to illness with illness onset dates ranging from September 2017 to June 2018.”

Anyone with questions can contact Empire Kosher at 1-877-627-2803.