Salmonella has been in the news a lot recently with poultry, and its relation to several outbreaks. However, another concerning unrelated Salmonella outbreak has been identified concerning pork linked to a meat company -Kapowsin Meats.

Recently, a Salmonella outbreak took place at the Good Vibes Tribe Luau in Seattle, Washington. The Luau took place on July 3, 2016 from 6-11 pm. As of July 21, 2016, there have been 15 cases of Salmonella poisoning associated with the Luau. Eight of these illnesses have been confirmed by laboratory testing. The illnesses reported began between July 5, 2016 and July 7, 2016. There have been no reports of hospitalization or death.

            The investigation began after the Washington State Department of Health received reports of Salmonella poisoning on July 11, 2016, July 12, 2016, and July 15, 2016. The Department of Health conducted interviews with those sickened in the outbreak, and attempted to pinpoint the source of the outbreak. Food served at the event included rotisserie roasted pig, congri, tropical fruit salad, parilla, Hawaiian sweet bread, corn on the cob, and Hawaiian salad. All of those interviewed reported eating pork before becoming ill. The trace back investigation led the Department of Health to conclude that the rotisserie roasted pig was the source of the outbreak. The pig eaten at the Luau was produced by Kapowsin Meats.

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            After Kapowsin Meats was linked to the outbreak, they issued a voluntary recall. The Graham, Washington based company recalled about 11,658 pounds of pork products. The whole roaster hogs, which were packaged in boxes and bags of various size, were produced between June 13 and July 15, 2016. Products affected by the recall have the establishment number “EST. 1628M” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Recalled pork was distributed to individuals, distributors, and retail locations across the state of Washington. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has recommended that consumers dispose of any recalled products found in their homes. More information about the pork recall can be found here.

            This is not the first Salmonella outbreak linked to Kapowsin Meats. Last year, pork produced by Kapowsin Meats was associated with a large outbreak of Salmonella, and was subjected to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation. At the end of the CDC investigation, a total of 192 people were sickened in the outbreak. There were two different strains of Salmonella associated with this outbreak, Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-(188) and Salmonella Infantis. However, only 4 cases of illness were caused by Salmonella Infantis. The 4 Salmonella Infantis cases were linked to the outbreak through the use of the PulseNet database. This database catalogs the DNA fingerprint of bacteria involved in foodborne illness recalls and outbreaks, and allows investigators to track and link together illnesses more easily.

            These cases were spread out over 5 states, including Alaska with 1 case, California with 2 cases, Idaho with 2 cases, Oregon with 3 cases, and Washington with 184 cases. Even though 4 states other than Washington were affected, most of those from other states reported visiting Washington in the week prior to becoming ill. These illnesses began between April 25 and September 25, 2015. Thirty people were hospitalized because of their illnesses.

            Kapowsin Meats issued a pork product recall in relation to the 2015 outbreak as well. The first recall was issued on August 13, when over 100,000 pounds of whole pigs were recalled. Those products were shipped to retail locations and distributors in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Investigations carried out by FSIS took samples from both Kapowsin Meats pork products and the Kapowsin Meats production facility. Many of these samples tested positive for either Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-(188) or Salmonella Infantis. This lead to the suspending of production at the Kapowsin Meats facility, as well as an expansion of the recall. On August 27, 2015, the recall was expanded to include a total of 523,380 pounds of various pork products, including pork trim, pork blood, several different pork offal, and whole pigs for barbeque.

            Salmonella bacteria was first discovered more than 125 years ago by Dr. Salmon, after whom the bacteria was named. Cases of Salmonella poisoning in the United States first began to be tracked in 1962. There have been 32 serotypes, or strains, of Salmonella bacteria identified since then. These serotypes, from Salmonella Newport to Salmonella Litchfield, cause a CDC estimated 1.2 million cases of illness, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths per year in the United States. This makes Salmonella one of the most common sources of foodborne illness in the United States. Thankfully, the incidence rates of Salmonella poisoning appear to be declining, with a 9% decrease in infection rates in 2013 when compared to 2010-2012 infection rates. Salmonella infections grow more common in the summer, but the reason for this is unknown. Salmonella outbreaks are very common, and a total of 106 separate Salmonella outbreaks were reported in 2012.

            There are many practices that can help prevent Salmonella infections. The most effective way to prevent infection is to thoroughly cook poultry, eggs, ground beef, and other meats. It is recommended that all meats be heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill any bacteria found in the meat. Foods and drinks containing raw eggs or unpasteurized (raw) milk should be avoided. Proper hand washing is essential to preventing infection, and anyone preparing food should wash their hands thoroughly prior to handling any food items. Caution and proper hand washing should also be implemented when handling reptiles and birds, as they can carry the bacteria on their skin.

Salmonella poisoning will usually cause symptoms between 12 and 72 hours after infection. Generally, a Salmonella infection will produce symptoms including fever, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. In many cases, the illness will only last between 4-7 days, but there is a chance of the illness worsening. Those with certain risk factors, including the elderly, children, and those with suppressed immune systems are at an increased risk of developing a serious Salmonella infection. Diarrhea caused by a Salmonella infection can cause severe dehydration, especially in young children. It is important to stay well hydrated if you are experiencing diarrhea. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of a Salmonella infection, contact a medical professional.