A salmonella outbreak across four states that make 17 people ill and cause death has been linked to a popular brand of kosher chickens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cases have been reported since last September in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York, where death has occurred.
The CDC said some of the people who got sick kosher Empire chicken, and the strain was also identified in raw chicken collected from a facility that handles the brand.
No recall was issued.
"We do not advise people to eat kosher kosher or imperial kosher-type chicken, because there are steps that can be taken to make the product safe," said CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes to NPR. "Based on the information about the outbreak that is shared, people can safely decide for themselves what kind of chicken to eat."
Proper precautions include cooking the meat to an interior temperature of 1
The CDC also advises people not to wash raw chicken, which can cause the juices to splash and spread germs. (Here's a practical diagram for cooking meat safely.)
Despite the simple steps, the CDC estimates that salmonella in the US causes more than one million malady each year.
Americans who eat more chicken than any other meat should assume that everything could harbor salmonella before it is cooked, Haynes said.
Salmonella, a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and humans, is spilled into feces. When an animal is slaughtered, the feces can reach the meat.
Common symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, which can occur between 12 hours and 3 days after infection and can last up to one week.
Most people recover without treatment and without lasting effect, but the very old, very young and those with weakened immune symptoms are more prone to complications. Around 450 people die each year from salmonella poisoning, says the CDC.
According to the CDC, the eruption associated with the "Empire Kosher" brand seems to have ended in June. Nevertheless, the risk may not be over.
The Department of Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture has issued a "very cautious" public health warning, which is worrying that some of the contaminated meat – including raw chicken and chicken parts – could remain in freezers.
In a statement, Empire Kosher said it cooperates fully with food safety officials.
"We take the food safety and health of our consumers very seriously, and any disease that may even be associated with our products is unacceptable," the company said. "We continue to work aggressively to ensure the quality and safety of our products."
Kosher food adheres to Jewish dietary laws, which in the case of meat include a ritual slaughter of the animal. Certified kosher products have also earned a reputation for being healthier and safer than other foods, and only about eight percent of kosher consumers are religious Jews, according to Kosher: Private Regulations in the Age of Industrial Nutrition.
But as Berkeley Wellness notes, little published research finds an actual difference in safety between kosher and non-kosher food.