Foster Farms, a poultry producer linked to a salmonella outbreak sickening Americans in 18 states, will stay open after a deal between business owners and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (SIS). In exchange, managers vow to step up safety procedures over the next three months.
Demonstrated effort to improve
Last week, FSIS staff pored over Foster Farms’ safety plans for its three California plants. Instead of shutting down any of the facilities, the agency is offering the company a grace period, during which it must demonstrate good-faith efforts to prevent future outbreaks.
According to Ron Foster, president and CEO of Foster Farms, the company is working its tailfeathers off to ensure the facilities are up to snuff.
"We are putting every resource and all of our energy toward food safety with the confidence that Foster Farms plants will be the most stringent in the industry,” he said.
Consumers partly to blame
In a statement, Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer, said Foster Farms remains wholly open for business because responsibility for the outbreak falls, at least in part, on consumers.
“With proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption,” he said. “Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present.”
Chapman added if raw chicken is fully cooked to 165 degrees F, any bacteria present is eradicated. As long as consumers properly prepare the chicken, and they ensure that cooked chicken isn’t tainted after the fact with raw, contaminated chicken fluids, there is no danger.