The Foster Farms plants, based in Fresno and Livingston, California, were reportedly under threat of closure by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) due to concerns over the high level of salmonella contamination at its plants. Foster Farms was given until yesterday to draft a plan on how it would tackle the problem, with US officials threatening to withdraw inspectors if it failed to meet the deadline.
A USDA spokesman confirmed last night that the company had “submitted and implemented immediate, substantive changes” to its slaughter and processing operations, and would be permitted to remain open. However, he added that inspectors would monitor progress closely at the plants, and continue intensified sampling for three months.
Apologising for the illness associated with Foster Farms products, CEO and president Ron Foster said the company had worked “relentlessly” to address the issues and was “putting every resource and all of our energy toward food safety”.
It has been reported that at least 278 people have fallen ill over 18 states due to the outbreak.
Some of the cases were resistant to antibiotics, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention explained that this could help explain why the hospitalisation rate had doubled compared to normal rate for this kind of outbreak.
Foster Farms has still not issued recalls of any of its poultry products, which have been primarily distributed in California, Washington and Oregon.
Speaking yesterday, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer, Dr Ron Chapman, explained: “The CDPH has not requested Foster Farms to recall chickens because, with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption.
“Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present. Cooking chicken fully to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the bacteria present. Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume.”