On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended poultry processing at a Foster Farms plant in Livingston, CA, due to an infestation of cockroaches. Since then, some people have expressed confusion about why the agency closed the plant for pests but not months ago during an outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella that sickened at least 416 people. The answer is that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service can only suspend inspections – effectively shutting down a plant – if products have been adulterated. Because pests carry filth and bacteria, leading to “insanitary conditions,” they are considered an adulterant. But, based on how courts have interpreted the definition of  “adulteration,” Salmonella is not. U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) released a statement regarding the suspension, calling the move “long overdue” in reference to the Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms. “Earlier action by USDA could have saved many families the heartache of seeing their loved ones suffer,” read the statement. An agency source told Food Safety News that although some have argued the number of illnesses would have justified action, the law would not have supported it solely because of Salmonella contamination. “The agency is unable to make regulations accomplish goals that the underlying law prohibits us from doing,” the source said. “The statutory criteria and the court decisions that dictate FSIS’ authority on Salmonella cannot be simply overturned through regulatory action or approving a petition.” Many argue that FSIS needs to have the authority to shut down plants due to Salmonella contamination, but the agency says this power would have to come from Congress rather than internally. Addressing this assertion, DeLauro and Slaughter said that they are “exploring options to ensure [USDA has] clear authority to do so, instead of hoping they find filth before they can shut down a plant they already know is a problem.”