Food

FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections Linked to Rotisserie Chicken Salad from Costco

December 22, 2015

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), and state and local authorities have been investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 illnesses that have been reported in California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Update: December 22, 2015

On December 21, 2015, the CDC announced the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 outbreak linked to Rotisserie Chicken Salad from Costco appeared to be over.

The FDA worked with Costco and its suppliers, including Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc., and federal, state, and local agencies to gather and analyze information about the supply chain(s) of the rotisserie chicken salad.  The evidence did not lead to the identification of a single ingredient in the chicken salad ingredient as the cause of the outbreak.

What was the Problem and What was Done About It?  

The FDA, the USDA FSIS, and the CDC along with state and local officials have been investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections in California, Colorado, Montana, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. On December 21, 2015, the CDC announced that the outbreak appeared to be over.

The epidemiologic evidence available to investigators suggests that rotisserie chicken salad purchased from Costco stores was a likely source of this outbreak.

The FDA worked with Costco and its suppliers, including Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc., and federal, state, and local agencies to gather and analyze information about the supply chain(s) of the rotisserie chicken salad.  The evidence did not lead to the identification of a single ingredient in the chicken salad as the cause of the outbreak.

On November 20, 2015, Costco reported to the FDA that it removed rotisserie chicken salad from all stores in the U.S.

On November 26, 2015, Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. conducted a market withdrawal of 71 products citing “an abundance of caution due to a Celery and Onion Diced Blend testing positive for E. coli 0157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health.” The specific celery and onion mix was made by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. for use in Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad. 

Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. initiated the market withdrawal when five preliminary analytical tests run by the Montana Public Health Laboratory all indicated the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in this sample. The preliminary polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are commonly used to rapidly screen a sample for the presence of the DNA of a bacteria.

The state of Montana provided the FDA with a partial sample of the celery/onion mix to assist with additional analysis, which did not confirm the presence of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in the sample.

A “PCR positive” result indicates that the sample may have contained DNA of the bacteria in question. But if other bacteria are present in the sample, they can interfere with the growth and isolation of the suspect bacteria. Alternatively, the bacteria in question may be present in very low numbers and hard to isolate or could have died off by the time of the confirmation testing.

According to the CDC, as of December 18, 2015, a total of 19 ill people have been reported in seven states: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Ill people range in age from 5 to 84 years old, with a median age of 18. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. There have been five reported hospitalizations and two reports of a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). There have been no reported deaths.

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What are the Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7?

The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit disclaimer icon/less than 38.5 degrees Celsius). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

Around 5–10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems.

Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die. People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

Who is at Risk? 

People of any age can become infected. Very young children and the elderly are more likely than others to develop severe illness and HUS, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill. 

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What Specific Products were Recalled?

A list of products Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. has withdrawn is available here.

Consumers who have any of the products recalled by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. are urged to throw them away. 

Additionally, on November 20, 2015, Costco reported to the FDA that it removed rotisserie chicken salad from all Costco’s U.S. stores. Consumers who purchased rotisserie chicken salad from any Costco store in the U.S. on or before November 20, 2015, should not eat it and should throw it away. Even if some of the rotisserie chicken salad has been eaten and no one has gotten sick, throw the rest of the product away. 
This product has a typical shelf life of three days and is labeled “Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” with item number 37719.

A picture of the product label is available here.

Who Should be Contacted? 

Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days, or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine.

Consumers who have questions about the Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. recall may call 209-830-3141 Monday to Friday, except holidays, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PST).

Consumers with questions about the rotisserie chicken salad may want to contact Costco customer service at consumer affairs department toll free at 1-800-774-2678 Monday through Friday, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (PST), and Saturday and Sunday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PST).

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD or consult the fda.gov website.

Additional Information

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Page Last Updated: 12/22/2015
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