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If you bought a rotisserie chicken at Costco, DON'T EAT IT!

coll Oct 12, 2013 03:11 AM

Just a friendly warning:


  1. r
    RedTop Oct 12, 2013 06:11 AM

    A staggering number--that Cosco sold 20 tons of chicken in 13 days?

    2 Replies
    1. re: RedTop
      zillabreeze Oct 12, 2013 12:37 PM

      Doesn't surprise me at all! They are fabulous and much less expensive that the local grocery stores rotesseries.

      1. re: RedTop
        drongo Oct 21, 2013 10:27 AM

        I was struck by the article at the following link, which mentions that Costco sold 69 million rotisserie chickens last year! http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/michae...
        If you lined 69 million chickens head-to-tail, and assuming each is 8" long, that would be over 8,700 miles -- more than the distance from Melbourne, Australia to Calgary, Canada.

      2. drongo Oct 12, 2013 06:12 AM

        It's not just Costco, but chickens from Foster Farms sold in many places with brand names including Foster Farms, Eating Right, Kirkland Signature, O Organics, Open Nature, Ralphs, Safeway Farms, and Simple Truth Organic.

        Consumer Reports has some advice: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ne...

        1 Reply
        1. re: drongo
          RedTop Oct 12, 2013 06:18 AM

          But the lead specifically states one Costco warehouse store location.

          *sigh* I guess all the proofreaders are dead & gone.

        2. g
          GH1618 Oct 12, 2013 10:13 AM

          Those rotisserie chickens must be mostly eaten by now.

          14 Replies
          1. re: GH1618
            drongo Oct 12, 2013 02:03 PM

            Yes. And store-bought rotisserie chickens are thoroughly cooked and should be safe. I'd be more worried about raw chickens from Foster Farms (sold under various brand names as noted above), which -- unless handled carefully -- could contaminate surfaces, other foods, etc. in the kitchen before cooking.

            1. re: drongo
              maria lorraine Oct 18, 2013 11:11 PM

              I'm sorry to say that this information is dated and incorrect, and does not reflect the virulence of current salmonella strains.

              It was Costco Roasted Chickens -- already cooked -- that caused part of the recent salmonella outbreak. It was an especially virulent strain, that not only survived roasting, but was antibiotic-resistant.

              "Costco cooks its chicken to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, a margin of error that the company believes renders the chicken safe. But that didn’t work here. Which means, as far as I can tell, one of four things: the chicken wasn’t cooked to 180 degrees Fahrenheit; or there was some cross-contamination; or there was so much salmonella on the birds that even “proper” cooking couldn’t kill it all (this can happen; 165 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t a magic number); or … maybe there’s now a strain of salmonella that isn’t killed at 165 degrees Fahrenheit."

              Should You Eat Chicken? -- free access

              1. re: maria lorraine
                mwk Oct 25, 2013 10:22 AM

                Please...let's look at the likely causes. Have you ever heard of Occam's Razor?

                Definition of OCCAM'S RAZOR

                : a scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities

                Following Occam's Razor, it is extremely unlikely that there is a new bacterium that has developed resistance to cooking to 180 degrees. What is FAR more likely is that Costco doesn't monitor their rotisserie procedures to a fine degree, and their chickens are not actually getting cooked to 180 in all parts.

                How do they KNOW that the chicken cooks to 180 COMPLETELY? Do they have the attendant use an instant read thermometer on every one as they come out of the oven? No they don't. They do it by timing and sight. If it's been in the oven for 2 hours and it looks brown and juicy on the outside, it's 180 degrees.

                I've brought home rotisserie chickens that looked suspiciously pink in the center on occasion.

                The moral to this story is not that we are dealing with an indestructible pathogen, but rather, that you should cook your own chicken at home. It's not that hard to do.

                1. re: mwk
                  maria lorraine Oct 25, 2013 10:45 AM

                  Know all about Occam's Razor, but don't think it applies here in any way.

                  Nor do I think your assessment -- placing the blame on Costco -- is reality based, given the Foster Farms salmonella outbreak is in TWENTY states.

                  1. re: maria lorraine
                    mwk Oct 25, 2013 10:55 AM

                    I place the blame on Costco for not cooking the chickens thoroughly, NOT that they grew them in back of the store in the parking lots, filled them with Salmonella and then were surprised when people were ill. I'm only talking about the rotisserie chickens which were pulled and which Costco "CLAIMS" were cooked properly.

                    I just think it's fear mongering to suggest that there is a new, heat-resistant bacterium that is resistant to cooking at high temperatures, when there has been NO scientific evidence to support that. What is likely is that Costco needs to reevaluate their food handling practices.

                    Meanwhile, this country does need to reconsider factory farming and what it is doing to the animals, to the environment, and to the people eating the output of same.

                    1. re: mwk
                      maria lorraine Oct 25, 2013 11:00 AM

                      Focusing on the store that cooked that chicken when that's a small part of the outbreak, and may be even unrelated to the 20-state outbreak, is to not see the whole picture.

                      <<NOT that they grew them in back of the store in the parking lots, filled them with Salmonella and then were surprised when people were ill. >>

                      Don't think this type of comment is constructive or helps to further understanding.

                      <<Meanwhile, this country does need to reconsider factory farming and what it is doing to the animals, to the environment, and to the people eating the output of same.>>

                      Of course, that's where all this is leading: Farms, chicken processing plants, more inspectors who know what they're doing, instant disease checking rather than results in a week, and so forth. The safety of our food system is nowhere near where it should be.

                      1. re: maria lorraine
                        mwk Oct 25, 2013 11:16 AM

                        I'm going to try this one more time. I mention the store(s) where the chicken was cooked, because YOU linked to that editorial in the NY Times, and YOU pulled out the quote from Costco regarding their food handling procedures, and YOU quoted the line about maybe there’s now a strain of salmonella that isn’t killed at 165 degrees Fahrenheit."

                        So yes, I focused on that, and that was what I was responding to, in particular. YOU used that quote and that incident as an example of "the virulence of current salmonella strains." So yes, I challenged that.

                        1. re: mwk
                          maria lorraine Oct 25, 2013 11:34 AM

                          Don't attack me. I just quoted an article that asked questions at the time of its publication. I used no quote from Costco.

                          Your anger at me -- again -- does not further understanding.
                          It's also unfair and misguided.

                      2. re: mwk
                        GH1618 Oct 25, 2013 02:33 PM

                        I agree, the hypothesis that bacteria which can tolerate higher heat might be present in the Costco cooked chicken is not warranted. That's something that would have to be demonstrated in carefully controlled experiments before being taken seriously as an explanation.

                        Either the chickens weren't cooked properly for some reason or there was cross-contamination. Either way, it's a process problem.

                        1. re: GH1618
                          maria lorraine Oct 25, 2013 03:18 PM

                          That's true: We don't have enough answers on S. Heidelberg's heat- or antibiotic-resistance.

                          We do know most of the infections in this outbreak were in people who ate chicken that was not purchased from Costco and was roasted at home.

                          Which means:

                          -- home roasting temperatures were not high enough to kill S. Heidelberg.


                          -- humans became infected by eating other foods contaminated by raw or undercooked infected chicken.

                          But so far, no one can pinpoint if the S. Heidelberg infections came from cross-contamination or from surviving normal home-roasting temps.

                          The first possibility brings much deserved new attention to food safety at home, as discussed previously in this thread.

                          We know the S. Heidelberg-infected chickens came from Foster Farms processing plants, and were labeled Foster Farms or any of a dozen other brand labels.

                          Foster Farms has certainly been less than forthcoming, and has bungled the handling of this issue. Read up on their safety/sanitation history.

                          To be sure, the USDA is an ludicrously weak protector of the US food supply, and its expertise is not encouraging.

                          Which all means: This is a huge mess with lots of extremely ill people.

                          1. re: maria lorraine
                            GH1618 Oct 25, 2013 05:10 PM

                            I don't know that "we know" that the people who got sick roasted their chicken. It could have been cooked any number of ways.

                            One think we do know is that Foster Farms produces a lot of chicken. Hundreds of cases of illness is a tiny percentage of the number of people eating FF chicken in any week. I suspect that they were those who undercooked their chicken or cross-contaminated it through sloppy handling, and they happened to have had contaminated chicken. Most of the time they would get away with it.

                            1. re: GH1618
                              maria lorraine Oct 25, 2013 05:23 PM

                              "Sloppy handling"??

                              You're blaming consumers??

                              No culpability for FF??

                              P.S.: "Oven-roasted at home" was on news reports, FWIW, but none of know the prep methods for all those sickened, nor their handling procedures, careful or sloppy.

                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                GH1618 Oct 27, 2013 08:05 AM

                                It's pretty clear from the FSIS letters to Foster Farms that they believe there is some culpability for FF. I support the position of the FSIS that FF must make some changes.

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  GH1618 Oct 27, 2013 08:20 AM

                                  I have just read some of the reports on the outbreak, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have found no mention that the manner of cooking the chicken by those who became ill after eating home-cooked chicken was determined. The CDC merely reports a link to certain Foster Farms plants.

                                  For the Costco-cooked chicken, the CDC reports that cross-contamination is the likely cause.

              2. r
                rasputina Oct 16, 2013 09:48 AM

                Thanks for posting it. Although I'm safe, I haven't bought a rotis chicken in any store let alone Costco in years.

                1. LotusRapper Oct 17, 2013 09:53 PM

                  Dang, we were down in WA last weekend and bought 2 Costco chickens on way to our hotel ! So far no one (7 of us) have reported feeling sick ..........

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LotusRapper
                    coll Oct 18, 2013 05:37 AM

                    Glad to hear it! Maybe the worst is over.

                  2. boogiebaby Oct 18, 2013 03:47 PM

                    You should really be more specific -- the article you linked to specifically says the Costco recall is limited to one particular store in South San Francisco. It's not all chickens at all Costcos.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: boogiebaby
                      coll Oct 18, 2013 05:56 PM

                      That's why I linked, you can read it for yourself and decipher as you will.

                      1. re: coll
                        boogiebaby Oct 18, 2013 10:51 PM

                        There's nothing to decipher. The article says it was one store, yet you posted a topic headline implying it was all chickens at all Costcos. Very misleading.

                        1. re: boogiebaby
                          coll Oct 19, 2013 10:50 AM

                          So complain to the news site that wrote it, I was just passing it on.

                          1. re: coll
                            LotusRapper Oct 19, 2013 12:45 PM

                            I think Coll should get the benefit of doubt for passing along useful information (in the link) as a PSA. So the thread title may have sounded a bit all-encompassing, but Coll certainly don't deserve to be scolded.

                            1. re: LotusRapper
                              coll Oct 19, 2013 12:54 PM

                              Wow thanks for backing me up, much appreciated! I was only trying to help....

                              1. re: coll
                                globocity Oct 19, 2013 01:39 PM

                                Your intentions were kind and genuine. This is a serious publuc health issue and one that needs to be conveyed!

                    2. maria lorraine Oct 18, 2013 11:14 PM

                      Another viewpoint: It's a headline we all should heed, for now.

                      This entire episode has been extremely poorly handled by Foster Farms and by Costco. Foster Farms was neglectful, and Costco should have pulled the entire line in all their stores everywhere. IMO.

                      The latest strain of salmonella is such a virulent, violent one -- not killed by cooking and resistant to antibiotics.

                      My personal and professional interaction with FF over the last few months in regards to substandard chicken lead me to believe that FF has systemic issues with sanitation and quality control. Hate to say that, but I absolutely did not come to that conclusion lightly.

                      -- Buy a higher-quality chicken not from any of the Foster Farms facilities, which include many brands, and pay more per pound. One great benefit of this is you actually get more chicken per pound (I've weighed it.)
                      -- Buy local if you can, and cook it properly.
                      -- Be watchful of cross-contamination (cutting board, knives, leaking juices, bleach/cleaning, etc.).

                      More on this:
                      Should You Eat Chicken? -- free access

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: maria lorraine
                        GH1618 Oct 19, 2013 11:21 AM

                        Costco is handling this responsibly. They have issued two recalls totalling more than 80,000 lbs. of chicken. There is no reason they should recall chicken originating from locations which do not show evidence of contamination. That doesn't make sense.

                        1. re: GH1618
                          maria lorraine Oct 19, 2013 11:52 AM

                          Foster Farms should be eliminated as a brand from Costco, period, because of this salmonella issue and other safety/sanitation/smelly/old/bad issues with Foster Farms and its chicken processing plants.

                          In fact, I think doing so would strengthen Costco's brand as a steward of safety in its customers' minds.

                          Costco does sell other brands of chicken: The sales and marketing focus should be on those brands.

                        2. re: maria lorraine
                          chowser Oct 19, 2013 11:22 AM

                          That's too bad to hear about Foster Farms. When I lived in California (about 10 years ago), it was touted as one of the "better' factory farms, if there is such a thing. I was in agriculture and came across many in the meat industry who were favorable about both Costco and Foster Farms.

                          1. re: chowser
                            KaimukiMan Oct 19, 2013 12:58 PM

                            a few years (a decade?) ago it was Tyson that was constantly in the news. Now it's Foster Farms. We still haven't learned how to do factory farming right when it comes to animals. Hopefully this will result in FF making some needed changes.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan
                              maria lorraine Oct 19, 2013 01:23 PM

                              Sales are down 25% (probably more), and it was only after that, that the FF Prez issued an apology. Poor handling of issue.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan
                                chowser Oct 19, 2013 04:10 PM

                                I'm wondering if, 10 years ago, FF wasn't big enough to be quite a factory" farm. I knew people in the meat industry who thought their practices were good. I don't know its history to know when it became large.

                                Come to think of it, it was 20 years ago, not 10. Time flies.

                                1. re: chowser
                                  coll Oct 19, 2013 04:12 PM

                                  I have no knowledge at all, but often it's when they are bought out by someone bigger. At least that's what I find.

                                  1. re: coll
                                    nikkihwood Oct 19, 2013 10:09 PM

                                    FF is still family owned. I think the problem might be good old-fashioned American greed - trying to compete with Tyson and Perdue and whatever Midwestern outfit exists. It'll always backfire on ya!

                                    And yes, 20 years ago, their rep was good.

                                    We've been debating all week. I think it's time to stop buying supermarket chicken. We have a good farmers market source, and we can give up BSCB's and whack leg sections to get well-raised chicken thighs and legs.

                                    1. re: nikkihwood
                                      KaimukiMan Oct 20, 2013 12:12 AM

                                      You are lucky. a couple of years ago I was talking to a restauranteer who was trying to source fresh local chicken for his restaurant in Honolulu. All his other food was fresh sourced except for some spices, etc. He was unable to find fresh chicken. No one in Hawaii raises it. I've heard various reasons why from cost of importing feed (really?) to no available inspectors, to the problems of competitive pricing. I wonder how many other places there are where you can't get locally produced chicken.

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan
                                        drongo Oct 21, 2013 07:21 AM

                                        Kauai is overrun with feral chickens... maybe someone could harvest them?? (Probably tasty but tough!)

                                        1. re: drongo
                                          emu48 Oct 25, 2013 11:23 AM

                                          Wild chickens are all over most if not all the inhabited Hawaiian Islands. Like pigs. Based on their diet, they should be very tasty. In 25 years living in Hawaii, I never knew of anyone eating a wild local chicken, though. I'm sure somebody must hunt them ... they are, after all, just another pheasant. Chicken meat production disappeared in Hawaii only in the last decade ... there are still egg producers, I believe. One reason the industry died was the cost of imported feed grains, which has escalated sharply in recent years. Blame that on the craze for growing corn for ethanol production ... in many places, that's far more profitable than growing other grains to feed animals and humans. Shipping in feed costs a lot more now also.

                            2. re: maria lorraine
                              EWSflash Oct 26, 2013 09:58 AM

                              This is disappointing news. Foster Farms used to be my go-to brand of chicken. But I imagine you can't regularly crank out that kind of volume of anything without running into contaminations problems eventually.

                            3. a
                              Alan408 Oct 21, 2013 07:41 AM

                              I live in the area of the Nor Cal Costco store. Local news reported it was cross contamination and store personnel would be retrained.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Alan408
                                maria lorraine Oct 21, 2013 10:45 AM

                                I believe that's only part of the story, and may be the one that's best for PR -- blame it on an employee or Costco prep area rather than on Foster Farms.

                                The LA Times:

                                “Consumer advocates have demanded a full recall of poultry from the three Foster Farms plants, citing USDA investigations showing multiple instances of unsanitary conditions and fecal matter on carcasses."

                                Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumers Union, said, “This new recall just reinforces what we’ve been saying all along, which is they need a full recall, not just of rotisserie chicken from that Costco, but those three Foster Farms plants.”

                                The Foster Farms plants remain open.



                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  GH1618 Oct 21, 2013 11:06 AM

                                  Costco has its own story, independent of Foster Farms. Costco does not produce chicken, but if chicken contaminated with salmonella is brought into Costco, cooked products made from it should not be contaminated. If it is, that is Costco's problem, and is the reason Costco issued a recall. The reason for the contamination of rotisserie chickens may have been cross-contamination rather than inadequate cooking, but I haven't heard elsewhere that the cause has been determined.

                                  As for Foster Farms, it is up to them whether to recall, since recalls for salmonella are not mandatory. The plants remaining open (which FSIS could close) depends on whether FF has made process improvements to correct the problem, not on the finding that a problem existed. There's no point in closing the barn door after the chickens have escaped.

                                  1. re: GH1618
                                    Paul H Oct 22, 2013 01:21 PM

                                    The only source saying that we have a "strain of salmonella [...] such a virulent, violent one -- not killed by cooking" is Bittman's sensationalistic article. Cross-contamination makes much more sense. This happened at ONE store. Certainly if this was the appearance of some new super salmonella, it would have been more widespread? Salmonella will not reproduce above 119 dF, and 90% of a salmonella population will be killed by a 60 second exposure to 150 dF. All chickens have salmonella in their gut, it is harmless to them. Be careful, follow standard food handling and sanitation guidlines, and cook your chicken to 160 dF, and you should be fine.

                                    1. re: Paul H
                                      maria lorraine Oct 22, 2013 02:10 PM

                                      What makes you think this salmonella outbreak is the result of chickens from ONE Costco store, as you write?

                                      "Salmonella Outreak Linked to Foster Farms Grows to 338 Cases"

                                      October 19, 2013, Food Safety News -- "At least 338 in 20 states and Puerto Rico have been found to be ill with Salmonella in connection to an outbreak from chicken produced by Foster Farms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

                                      "That number is up 21 illnesses from the last reported number of 317."


                                      An outbreak in 20 different states cannot be the result of chickens from *one* Costco store, to state the obvious, about a widespread outbreak.

                                      The Heidelberg strain is antibiotic resistant, and unlike most salmonella -- the familiar strains to which you refer -- causes a high degree of hospitalization.

                                      Obviously, Foster Farms has been quite lax about cleanliness and sanitation if an outbreak -- this widespread and this virulent -- is happening now.

                                      Many consumers have complaints about fecal matter on chicken, etc. That's come out because of this latest incident. I complained directly to Foster Farms about chickens I purchased three times.

                                      Costco may be culpable too. But there is no way FF comes out smelling like a rose on this.

                                      My sense is Foster Farms is trying to shift blame to Costco rather than shouldering responsibility for seriously jeopardizing the health of consumers. It's a liability issue.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                        Paul H Oct 22, 2013 03:17 PM

                                        I was referring to the report of live salmonella on cooked chickens as being in only one place. I agree that this is a particularly dangerous strain of salmonella, but my point was that that if you use care and cook hot and long enough that you should be safe. There is no proof that this is a heat-resistant franken-strain as Bittman was implying.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          Alan408 Oct 22, 2013 04:10 PM

                                          Regarding the SSF Costco recall, a Costco spokesman revealed the cross contamination issue, he added they are reviewing their mopping procedures.

                                          It was one case of salmonella at the SSF Costco

                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                            GH1618 Oct 22, 2013 07:11 PM

                                            The salmonella outbreak is certainly widespread, and seems to have originated at Foster Farms. The problem with Costco rotisserie chickens, which caused them to be recalled, is limited to one processing location in South San Francisco. The Costco incident may be related to the Foster Farms incident, but it is a separate thing. Costco recalled its chickens because they sold them, regardless of how they became contaminated.

                                            1. re: GH1618
                                              calumin Oct 22, 2013 07:54 PM

                                              Costco recalled the chicken because salmonella is classified as an adulterant when it exists on ready-to-eat chicken. The PFGE analysis of the bacteria in the Costco outbreak shows that it is likely linked to the Foster Farms outbreak.

                                              1. re: calumin
                                                GH1618 Oct 22, 2013 08:02 PM

                                                Thanks for clarifying that.

                                          2. re: Paul H
                                            calumin Oct 22, 2013 06:23 PM

                                            Two things -- first, to suggest that Bittman is claiming that the salmonella strain is not killed by cooking is an exaggeration of his point. He suggested it as one of four possibilities -- and esp. given Costco's view of the situation, his actual words on this are actually well-balanced.

                                            More importantly, the real issue for debate here isn't about salmonella -- it is about these particular Salmonella Heidelberg strains. They result in a 42% hospitalization rate and a 13% rate of sepsis. They cannot be treated easily with antibiotics.

                                            We can follow safety standards for chicken we cook at home. But what about all the chicken we buy in other forms in the food supply?

                                            The antibiotic-resistant salmonella strains aren't the product of random chance. They exist because the chicken processors inject antibiotics into the chickens, and the bacteria in the animals develop a resistance to the drugs. There have been attempts in Congress to outlaw use of antibiotics for poultry production except in therapeutic cases, but it did not pass.

                                    2. maria lorraine Oct 22, 2013 03:38 PM

                                      Here is Bittman's update from Oct. 18th in the New York Times.


                                      1. maria lorraine Oct 22, 2013 04:01 PM

                                        The LA Times editorial yesterday asks these questions:

                                        "Costco, which sold rotisserie chickens from Foster Farms plants at its stores, recalled tens of thousands of pounds of poultry after finding salmonella even in the cooked meat. It's unclear how that happened: Could the chicken not have been cooked thoroughly? Must these particular strains of salmonella be heated to even higher temperatures to kill them? Or was there cross-contamination, with cooked chickens exposed to raw? In any case, the Costco situation illustrates the folly of the poultry industry pretending that a problem with its production methods is actually a problem of careless consumers."

                                        "Keeping salmonella out of chicken"
                                        -- Consumers shouldn't have to accept tainted poultry as just one of those unavoidable things.

                                        1. EWSflash Oct 26, 2013 09:55 AM

                                          After reading the article, I understand your warning, but don't you think the title is a little alarmist? Especially given that those checkens are always cooked to a high enough temp to kill pathogens.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                            coll Oct 26, 2013 10:00 AM

                                            I just know I wouldn't take a chance myself. I'm actually getting fed up with factory chicken at this point. So many issues, despite its reasonable cost.

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