One of the largest Foster Farms plants in California was ordered to suspend poultry processing on Wednesday after U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors cited it for “egregious insanitary conditions.”
According to The Oregonian, the federal agency’s notice of suspension states that the plant in Livingston, CA, poses a public health threat because it was infested with live cockroaches.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service officials had reportedly cited the Livingston plant for roaches several times in the past few months. Roaches were seen near the processing line at the plant while “exposed product” was on the slaughterhouse floor, the notice of suspension continued, and the live insects were also observed on other occasions during production.
“These recent findings of egregious insanitary conditions related to a cockroach infestation in your facility indicate that your establishment is not being operated and maintained in sanitary condition, or in a manner to ensure that product is not adulterated,” the notice stated. “Poorly maintained facilities and equipment that are not maintained to prevent entrance of pests, such as cockroaches, rats and flies, can and do harbor food borne pathogens, which can then multiply and be dispersed throughout the food processing environment, increasing the chances of product contamination rendering the product unsafe.”
The Livingston facility is one of the three Foster Farms plants in central CA currently being investigated in connection with a national Salmonella outbreak that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports has sickened at least 416 people in 23 states and Puerto Rico. While roaches can carry Salmonella, it hasn’t been established that their presence in the plant is connected with the outbreak.
Although Foster Farms did agree to improve sanitation and other procedures at three of its CA processing facilities (the one in Livingston and two in Fresno), to date the family-owned company has not recalled any of its poultry products, and USDA’s FSIS has not ordered a recall. However, FSIS inspectors have apparently ramped up their testing of those three Foster Farms facilities.
Costco did take some Foster Farms rotisserie chicken off the shelves at one of its San Francisco stores in October which had been linked to the outbreak.
The order of suspension notes that the Livingston plant is to remain closed until Foster Farms devises a strategy to get rid of the cockroaches and make sure they do not return.
The current Salmonella outbreak has prompted consumer groups and others to criticize what they see as the federal government’s inadequate response to the Foster Farms situation and to advocate for additional regulatory oversight to help reduce the rate of Salmonella infection in the U.S., which causes at least 1 million illnesses every year and is responsible for more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of bacterium or virus found in food.© Food Safety News