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FSIS Denies That It Buried News of Foster Farms Recall

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) insists that it did not time the release of last week’s Foster Farms recall so that it would garner less attention, as some suggest.

“Burying news late at night on a holiday weekend may be a time-honored tradition by Washington spin doctors, but it is a shameful way to protect public health,” asserted Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) in a statement Monday.

A statement from FSIS countered that the agency “acted aggressively and expeditiously as soon as information was available to establish a conclusive link between a Foster Farms product and an illness, and then to initiate the recall process. Once we determined the scope of the recall, FSIS stayed on the job around the clock to proactively share the information with media and other entities to get information to consumers in advance of July 4 grilling.”

In 2012, Food Safety News studied daily patterns in FSIS and Food and Drug Administration’s recall announcements and found that, between 2005 and 2011, there were more recalls announced on Fridays.

“Friday recall notices may be the result of a sense of urgency to get make the information public before the work week ends,” wrote Marijke Schwarz Smith. “Indeed, processes within the regulatory agencies may be causing an inordinate number of recall notices to be issued on Fridays. Such factors could include laboratory procedures to find contamination in samples, communication delays between the lab, regulators and the companies voluntarily recalling their products, and the general timeline of work in the offices.”

DeLauro and Slaughter are calling for all Foster Farms poultry-processing facilities to be shut down until the ongoing Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak linked to the company’s chicken products is over.

“USDA will claim they do not have the authority to either issue a mandatory recall or shut down Foster Farms,” the two congresswomen said. “We disagree, but have introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act to ensure there is no confusion.”

The bill would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act to create a clearer definition for an adulterant to include “a microbial pathogen, such as Campylobacter or Salmonella, that is resistant to not less than two critically important antibiotics for human medicine” and mandate that FSIS develop and implement stronger testing protocols to identify the adulterants.

© Food Safety News
  • Jonathon Goodman

    4pm Friday appears to be the day and time of choice. Right when the stock market closed and regulators leave the office to go home.

    • Inside Observer

      The regulators were still on the phone with Foster Farms at 4pm on July 3rd. The details of the recall weren’t worked out until later that night, when the initial press release was published. The news wasn’t buried.

      • Connie Snyder

        So all that grilled chicken on the Fourth was okay. Yay!