LIVINGSTON, Calif. – Processing at the Livingston, Calif., Foster Farms chicken plant was temporarily suspended by federal inspectors on Jan. 8 after the discovery of cockroaches, which raised concerns about human health, reported the Modesto Bee. Although the company stressed that only five cockroaches were found in the 250,000-sq.-ft. plant during the past four months, it carried out “enhanced sanitizing” on Wednesday and expected that facility to reopen soon. No products were affected, the company added.
Just three months after threatening suspension of operations because of Salmonella problems at the Livingston plant and two Foster Farms sites in Fresno, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ordered this temporary closure, according to the report. These plants continued operating, however, after the company agreed to improve its safeguards.
On Jan. 8, the plant’s cockroach problem was detailed in a letter to Ron Foster, Foster Farms CEO, from Abdalla Amin, deputy district manager for the FSIS in Alameda. Five occasions were cited – from Sept. 14 through Jan. 8 – when FSIS inspectors located cockroaches at various points inside the plant. The agency, however, did not specify how many were found each time.
“This action is initiated based on egregious insanitary conditions observed in your establishment whereby products produced at your facility may have been rendered adulterated in violation of the Poultry Products Inspection Act,” Amin wrote.
Inspectors reportedly found cockroaches early on Jan. 8 at a hand-washing sink, the letter stated. Earlier cockroach detections were uncovered near a faucet, on a plastic tub that comes in contact with chicken, near a sanitizer dispenser and on the floor between the liver tumbler/belt and the wall.
Cockroaches “can and do harbor food-borne pathogens, which can then multiply and be dispersed throughout the food-processing environment, increasing the chances of product contamination rendering the product unsafe,” Amin wrote. FSIS did not warn consumers of any problems with products on the market.
In responding to the plant’s temporary suspension of processing, Foster Farms said in a statement: "As part of its commitment to food safety, Foster Farms maintains an ongoing pest-control program. This morning [Jan. 8], a cockroach was observed during plant operations at the company's Livingston, Calif., plant and the company was notified of four similar incidents since September 2013 in FSIS correspondence today.”
FSIS maintains a zero-tolerance policy and Foster Farms closed the Livingston facility immediately for sanitization and treatment, the statement added. “The company completed the treatment [on Jan. 8] and will review its program with the FSIS for full approval,” the statement continued. “This is an isolated incident; no other facilities are affected. Today's treatment is expected to fully resolve this incident. No products are affected. Product production has been transferred to the company's other facilities.”
FSIS inspectors must approve each facility prior to beginning operation on a daily basis, the statement pointed out. “Since September of 2013, FSIS identified a total of five cockroaches in our 250,000 sq. ft. Livingston plant. The company aggressively addressed each instance to the full satisfaction of the FSIS. A single incident is not acceptable, and we are committed to a zero-tolerance policy,” the statement said.