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FSIS Will Not Close Foster Farms Plants

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
  • farmber

    Nice. After 2 outbreaks since April 2012 and potentially thousands severely sickened Foster is still open for business with nary a recall.

    Contrast this with the Jensen farmers in shackles — and facing criminal charges.

    Note to the Food Safety Establishment: Don’t think this is escaping notice down here at the grassroots.

    (Im)moral of the story: Industrial Ag is calling the shots and it’s easy to use their captive “regulators” to guarantee agribusiness-as-usual AND to remove short-supply chain agriculture that is such a threat to their bottom line from the market…

  • crs

    Doesn’t most raw chicken come complete with salmonella? I don’t doubt that the Foster plants are dirtier than most, but Tyson and Perdue and locavore backyard chickens are equally likely to be contaminated so why the fuss about Foster?

  • Seen It ALL

    USDA’s regulatory HACCP program has been in place since 1998 (15+ yrs), but there’s still plenty of salmonella on chicken. HACCP by design is a continuous improvement program but since the substance and content of these plans are controlled by the USDA and not the plants, should the question be asked: WHO is responsible for this gross failure in food safety? Letting plants design and control their own food safety programs with USDA monitoring the results to assure they meet standards seems logical. Otherwise human nature and regulatory dictation results in continuous conflict and not continuous improvement. Less inspection and less conflict and more industry autonomy should result in safer food products.

  • TomG

    So according to SeenItAll regulation is the problem. Hahaha. Work for the food industry much?