WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) is advising consumers to properly handle and cook raw poultry due to an ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg that has been linked to Foster Farms raw chicken products manufactured at three of the company’s plants. No recall has been initiated, because authorities say the illness causing bacteria will be destroyed if the raw products are prepared properly.

Based in Livingston, Calif., Foster Farms is a chicken and turkey processor with approximately $2,400 million in annual sales, according to Meat & Poultry magazine’s annual Top 100 ranking of the industry’s largest companies. The company has 13 processing plants and employs 12,500.

The U.S.D.A. issued a public health alert on Oct. 7 after an estimated 278 illnesses were reported in 18 states, mostly in California. Currently, investigators are unable to link the illnesses to a specific product or production period.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family-owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its near 80-year history,” said Ron Foster, president of Foster Farms. “We deeply regret any food-borne illness that may be associated with any of our products. Food safety is at the very heart of our business. It is a continuous process of improvement. In addition to collaborating with F.S.I.S. and C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the company has retained national experts in epidemiology and food safety technology to assess current practices and identify opportunities for further improvement.”