The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) stated Thursday evening that it will not close the Foster Farms processing plants in California linked to a nationwide Salmonella outbreak.
FSIS had threatened to “withhold the marks of inspection” at the three California plants in Livingston and Fresno – effectively shutting them down – if the company had not presented corrective action plans by Thursday addressing its Salmonella control.
“Foster Farms has submitted and implemented immediate substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations,” said USDA spokesman Aaron Lavallee on Thursday. “FSIS inspectors will verify that these changes are being implemented in a continuous and ongoing basis. Additionally, the agency will continue intensified sampling for at least the next 90 days.”
The threat was a response to the ongoing Salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken from Foster Farms that has sickened at least 278 people in 18 states. Several strains of the pathogen have been identified as antibiotic-resistant, resulting in a hospitalization rate of 42 percent.
“FSIS has identified multiple noncompliances including but not limited to findings of poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary non food contact surfaces and direct product contamination,” read the letter FSIS sent to Foster Farms on Monday.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Foster Farms President and CEO Ron Foster said that the company had implemented new technology and interventions in its Pacific Northwest facility earlier this year that were “highly effective at reducing Salmonella” and had put similar interventions into place in CA.
“We are taking every possible step to ensure the current and future safety of our chicken products,” Foster said.
FSIS and Foster Farms have reminded consumers that raw poultry should be properly handled, avoiding cross-contamination, and fully cooked to 165 degrees F.
The Salmonella outbreak has been linked to the three CA plants, but there is currently no official government recall in place because investigators have not yet tied it to specific products. Grocery store chain Kroger announced Tuesday that it had pulled Foster Farms chicken products from all of its 2,400 stores.© Food Safety News