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USDA Suspends Foster Farms Plant for Cockroach Infestation

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
  • John Munsell

    The article above states “FSIS inspectors have apparently ramped up their testing of those three Foster Farms facilities”. Microbial testing was the heart & soul of FSIS’ initial claim in the mid-90’s that HACCP was based in science. Since then, on numerous occasions both FSIS and the industry have proudly claimed they use a “ROBUST” sampling protocol. If indeed the agency has increased sampling at the 3 Foster Farms facilities, I commend them. Likewise, FSIS’ PR justification for HIMP includes the “ability” for HIMP inspectors to dedicate their time to activities intended to prove the plants’ ability to consistently produce safe food. What is glaringly lacking however in FSIS public statements about HIMP is a quantitative description of sampling it promises to conduct in future HIMP plants. I suggest to you that future revelations of ongoing problems at HIMP plants will include the same terminology found in this report, i.e., FSIS is “APPARENTLY” (not sure, but it is possible) increasing its own testing at plants. No one ever accused FSIS officials of being dumb, as is seen here. Instead of promising consumers that it will conduct, as an example, one microbial test every hour at HIMP plants, FSIS demurely states that HIMP inspectors will have more time available to do things like testing. If indeed FSIS wants to prevent foodborne outbreaks, it should proudly state the precise incidence of testing it will do at HIMP plants, and promise to release test results that day online…..after all, we taxpayers are paying for it. Why would FSIS keep us in the dark: both (1) for the incidence of testing, and (2) actual test results? FSIS needs to come out of its testing closet, and tell us now the incidence of its allegedly “ramped up” testing at Foster Farms, and publicly release its test results. It won’t. Nor will it commit to admitting to Americans exactly what degree of testing it secretly wants to do (or avoid) at future HIMP plants. Yup, this is transparency. And political science. John Munsell

  • totalhealth

    This totally calls into question Costco and how they do NOT check out their suppliers. This is horrible and I CANNOT trust anything in their meat department any more.

    • DD

      Beware of Ralph’s Kroger also. Their simple truth chicken is foster farms relabeled……..many simple truth products are questionable…….check out cornucopia for any brands rating, its quite informative…..

    • GP

      You obviously have never set foot in a food plant. Costco is all over their vendors with surprise inspections etc. They are looking for a hundred other things in the name of food safety. Food plants today have so many inspections its a wonder they can afford to open the doors at all. There are third party companies that are supposed to handle “Pest elimination” and get paid very well by companies like Foster Farms to do the job. You might check into who they are and “call into question” their practices. They are paid to inspect several times a week…did they do it? I’m guessing not.

  • abraxasMN

    Sampling does not address inspectors looking around the plant. Now, they are not the only ones responsible for the condition of the facility, but insects *and* exposed product on the floor?? All the sampling plans in the world do not remedy this.

    • John Munsell

      I fully agree that product microbial sampling would NOT detect insects, nor do my statements infer that. I also agree that inspectors must perform other duties, in addition to sampling. We have no disagreement here. John Munsell

  • Darron Miller

    I am in these types of facilities everyday especially chicken. The bottom line is that the companies try to push every dollar to the bottom line without reinvesting in needed plant repairs. most of these facilities have been around since the 60’s. No need to get alarmed people. I see it everyday!!!! LOL

    • abraxasMN

      If you are seeing roaches and food on the floor and *are not* doing anything about it, you are part of the problem.

    • DD

      There are companies that profit by selling quality products, and there are companies that pretend to sell quality. For example Ralph’s Kroger, they sell your disgusting foster farms ,only they pretend its quality by packaging it under the name ” simple truth”. They have many simple truth products, the only trouble is, people are starting to wonder where simple truth comes from? Well! now you know where their disgusting chicken originates. Beware of Simple Truth products……………rated 1 of 5 at cornucopia and for Very Good Reasons……….