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USDA updates recall of tainted chicken to include military bases

By P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. military bases and military commissaries in five states that supply food to personnel and their families are among the outlets believed to have received salmonella-tainted chicken produced by Foster Farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine bases in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Washington state may have received the chicken, according to an updated list of recipients of the poultry, which was recalled last week. The recalled products may have been sold to the bases themselves, as well as on-base commissaries, the agency said.

Military personnel and their families typically shop at commissaries for food and other goods.

In a statement to Reuters, Foster Farms said it provided the USDA information "on involved products and customers" last week. "There have been no new customer or product extensions that we are aware of," the company said in its statement. "The only chicken products involved in this recall were produced on certain dates in March."

Officials at the Department of Defense could not be reached for comment.

According to the Agriculture Department, the recalled products were produced by Foster Farms on March 8, 10 and 11 this year at its plant in Livingston, California and two other facilities it owns in Fresno, California. The three plants have linked by public health investigators to the outbreak, which started in March of 2013.

The Defense Department has awarded California-based Foster Poultry Farms with $190.4 million worth of contracts for poultry products from 2003 through 2012, according to the government procurement website USASpending.gov.

On Thursday, Foster Farms said it would for the first time recall an undisclosed amount of contaminated chicken linked to a massive salmonella outbreak that has stretched on for more than 16 months.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service also said on Tuesday that the products were found to have also been carried by Costco stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington; as well as Food 4 Less, Food Max and Food Source stores in California.

The outbreak has roiled the public and brought regulatory pressure on the poultry producer. The salmonella strains linked to the outbreak have been identified in at least 621 cases in 29 states and Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, Foster Farms said it initiated the voluntary recall "in the fullest interest of food safety."

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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