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Foster Farms Delays Update on Salmonella Outbreak

Foster Farms, the western U.S. chicken producer tied to an ongoing Salmonella outbreak in 20 states, canceled an online news conference scheduled to occur on Monday because the company had not finished collecting data it planned to discuss with media.

The conference was intended to update media on the company’s efforts to prevent more illnesses in excess of the 317 reported last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC has recalled a number of previously furloughed epidemiology experts to help coordinate state officials who are tracking cases in the outbreak.

Three Foster Farms plants in central California came under scrutiny after health investigators linked them to the outbreak. Seventy-three percent of the illnesses have occurred in California.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it would not shut down those three plants, reporting satisfaction with food safety changes the company had made at its plants in Fresno and Livingston. The agency had earlier threatened to suspend operations if the company did not implement immediate corrective actions.

Despite canceling the news conference, the company did provide information on how it sanitizes its plants. The sanitation process occurs every day of the year, and a plant cannot resume operations each day until USDA inspectors verify that it has been properly sanitized.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service allows Salmonella on up to 7.5 percent of chickens slaughtered. One Foster Farms plant involved with the outbreak was shown to have Salmonella on as much as 25 percent of its chicken meat.

At least 42 percent of victims in the latest Foster Farms outbreak have been hospitalized. Many of the strains of Salmonella Heidelberg involved in the outbreak have proven to be resistant to antibiotics, which may explain the relatively high rate of hospitalizations.

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