Foster Farms plants to remain open

by Keith Nunes
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LIVINGSTON, Calif. – Corrective actions taken by poultry processor Foster Farms have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and three of the company’s plants implicated in an outbreak due to Salmonella Heidelberg will stay open.

On Oct. 7, in a Notice of Intended Enforcement, the FSIS said it would withhold marks of inspection and suspend inspection services at the plant if agency inspectors did not see improvement in food-safety operations at the three plants by Oct. 10.

“We started this process more than two months ago and this officially validates our progress, but we are not stopping here,” said Ron Foster, president and chief executive officer of Foster Farms. “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.”

While calls for a recall of the company’s raw-chicken products have been ongoing, the California Department of Public Health continues to state such an effort is unnecessary.

“The CDPH has not requested Foster Farms to recall chickens because, with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption,” said Ron Chapman, California state health officer. “Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present. Cooking chicken fully to 165°F will kill the bacteria present. Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume.”

Meanwhile, the outbreak is ongoing. The Florida Department of Health confirmed four cases of salmonellosis linked to Foster Farms chicken. Three cases were reported in Miami-Dade County, and a fourth case was found in Brevard County. Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened in the outbreak.
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