Eleven fresh and further processing poultry plants in five southern states owned by Wayne Farms LLC are on guard after foreign materials found in the company’s Laurel, MS, facility are being investigated as possible sabotage.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Inspector General (IG) has been brought in to lead the investigation of the the March 3 incident. A spokesman for Wayne Farms said the company is “working in collaboration” with the IG’s investigation and cannot comment further until it is complete.
When the material was found by the on-site USDA inspectors at the beginning of the second shift, all the product involved was immediately put on hold without the need for a recall. Production has continued at the fresh processing plant and the Wayne Farms spokesman said food safety was never compromised.
The Laurel plant where the foreign material was found is going through cutbacks due to the closure of deboning lines, which will result in layoffs of 500 workers by June. About 200 jobs will remain to prices about 650,000 birds a week. Some Laurel workers are being re-located to other Wayne Farms locations.
Two days later and about 400 miles away, extraneous plastic material was found in a chicken nugget product being prepared by Perdue Foods LLC in Gainesville, GA. That spurred the recall of 4,530 pounds of chicken nuggets produced for Applegate Farms. The nuggets, however, were produced during the previous fall, on Sept. 28, 2015, and the foreign material was discovered by consumer complaints.
Small, clear plastic was found inside the nuggets. USDA has not disclosed the foreign substance found at Wayne Farms.
While not frequent, it is not all that usual for food to be recalled for contamination with non-food substances. However, the deliberate planting of any such material is extremely rare.
Wayne Farms is the sixth largest poultry processing in the United States with annual sales approaching $2 billion. It processes more than 2.6 billion of poultry products each year. Wayne Farms is a subsidiary of the Continental Grain Co., headquartered in Oakwood, GA.
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