Congress members urge USDA to shut down Foster Farms plants

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – On July 7, Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) issued a statement calling on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to close all Foster Farms poultry processing facilities until a Salmonella outbreak allegedly linked to that firm that has sickened more than 600 people in 29 states is eradicated.

DeLauro is a former chairwoman of the Subcommittee that funds USDA and an outspoken advocate for stronger food-safety standards. Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, wrote the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would ban routine overuse of eight critical classes of antibiotics on healthy food animals, the statement said.

Late on July 3, USDA announced Foster Farms had issued a voluntary recall for its chicken products. This was the first recall Foster Farms has issued related to this outbreak, which has been going on for more than a year, the Congresswomen stated.

“Burying news late at night on a holiday weekend may be a time-honored tradition by Washington spin doctors, but it is a shameful way to protect public health,” the representatives said. “We have been saying for months that tainted chicken does not belong on the grocery stores shelves or the dinner tables of American families. How many more people will fall ill, or even be hospitalized, before USDA does the right thing and cracks down on companies that threaten our families’ health and safety?”

“USDA will claim they do not have the authority to either issue a mandatory recall or shut down Foster Farms,” they added. “We disagree, but have introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act to ensure there is no confusion. This bill would allow USDA to prevent dangerous, antibiotic-resistant pathogens from ever getting to supermarkets in the first place. House leadership should take up this bill immediately before any more American consumers fall victim.”

The Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act would require USDA to recall any meat, poultry or egg product contaminated by pathogens associated with serious illness or death, or that are resistant to two or more critically important antibiotics for human medicine.

An outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg during the past year linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms has reportedly sickened at least 621 Americans, hospitalizing almost 40 percent of those infected, the Congresswomen stated. Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics, a trait that is associated with increased hospitalization in infected individuals.
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READER COMMENTS (14)

By QueenB 7/16/2014 11:12:32 AM
Take your political issues off my plate!!! Every animal whether it's red meat or poultry is attached to some kind bacteria. I firmly agree and strongly suggest..COOK YOUR MEAT!!! When are we going to stop this preverbial blame game and look at the end result of how this meat is used. When you point one finger, there are 3 pointing back at you!! The plant owners are not all to blame. Educate the consumer at a childs' level and work your way up!! I have an idea...put warnings in or thermometers in Happy Meals!!!, Give alerts on smartphones on how cook meat and poultry. Make the safe handling sticker for raw meat on display..BIG..in your grocery stores, etc. The school systems messed up when they took home economics out of the schools.

By armandino batali 7/11/2014 9:08:07 PM
we are in the meat processing business--and cant believe that foster was reallowed to continue a few monhs ago-when the problem first occured--now to have a "second" outbreak after they stated the probleme had been taken care of means they did not fix the problem in the first place or maybe or more probable just ignored the situation completely in the direct confrontation with the USDa--Foster farms Do Not belong in this business--there arrogance is unacceptable.

By Brian Engle 7/11/2014 1:10:52 PM
Cook chicken thoroughly and shut up! Take some responsibility for your self. If they closed all of the plants down we would have to import all of our meat from countries that do not have standards that are very well developed. Meat does not come from stores.

By Patricia PERRON 7/11/2014 12:56:16 PM
Comment Required

By Patricia PERRON 7/11/2014 12:55:30 PM
It is now obvious to me: ALL factory farms are cruel, bad first,for animals, but INEVITABLY, for the emotional and physical costs to humans as well. This needs to be the first of thousands - close it down! FOR GOOD!

By concerned 7/11/2014 12:07:32 PM
I am curious if FF were involved in the "pilot" program of 20 plants mentioned in the article that wants to "modernize" poultry inspection, which states that this "modernization" will decrease incidence of salmonella. Inspectors aren't the ones actually running the lab tests, but they are the ones actively searching for unwholesome carcasses, along with finding grossly contaminated carcasses (feces and or bile)

By rhonda lieberman 7/11/2014 11:36:00 AM
please shut down this reckless and disgusting enterprise. their greedy, irresponsible behavior should not be tolerated.

By chief chicken 7/11/2014 10:54:59 AM
I beleive that Cargill turkey plants were shut down due to salmonella they could not get under control two years ago. Whats different about Foster...seems like they are struggling to get it under control. There is likey more to this story we are not seeing.

By Ron Calonica 7/11/2014 10:48:44 AM
Seems that the qualifications for USDA inspectors will have to go up for salmonella and campy discoveries to be dealt with. I do not see anything that says their educational background should be in biology or microbiology, etc. My question is how are USDA inspectors going to go about the required training that comes with pathogen discovery? Inspector requirements: Consumer Safety Inspector (Processed Product Inspection) Consumer Safety Officers and Consumer Safety Inspectors (processed products inspection) are involved in inspection of red meat, egg, and poultry products used for human consumption. This inspection activity is performed in a noisy industrial environment with large moving machinery that cannot be stopped instantly. Workstations and walkways can be extremely narrow and slippery. Excellent stability and balance is required. Frequent physical activities such as walking, climbing, standing, and kneeling are required, including climbing and walking on catwalks. Various environmental conditions, ranging from sub-freezing temperatures to summertime temperatures at 80 to 90 degrees are common, with extreme humidity at times. Accurate color vision is essential to notice subtle shades of product color in the detection of conditions that make a product unfit for human consumption. A normal sense of smell is needed to detect odors. Functional Requirements: Light Lifting, 10 pounds Walking (8 hours) Stand (8 hours) Climbing Stairs and Vertical Ladders Both Legs Required (Prosthesis Acceptable if Full Range of Mobility is Allowed) Near Vision using appropriate vision screening device Far Vision Correctable to 20/40 Depth Perception Normal Color Vision Normal Hearing (Aid Permitted) Ability to Detect Odors Clear Speech Environmental Factors: Working Indoors and Outdoors Excessive Heat Excessive Cold Excessive Humidity Excessive Dampness or Chilling Excessive Noise, Continuous Slippery and Uneven Walking Surfaces Working Around Machinery with Moving Parts Working Around Moving Objects or Vehicles Working in Close Proximity to Others Exposure to Offensive Odors Possible Exposure to Noxious Fumes Will be Required to Wear Appropriate Safety Protection

By David Radosevich 7/8/2014 4:45:34 PM
Sounds like the Congresswomen may have brother-in-laws who also sell chicken. The outbreak is caused from stupid people not cooking the chicken properly.

By John Billig 7/7/2014 5:04:41 PM
You said it right Joe. I agree with you 100%. By the way, I am also a retired Inspector who worked in Philly and met you in Scranton or Wilkes Barre when I was detailed up there in the late 70's.

By Billy Low 7/7/2014 5:04:17 PM
Why are these two uninformed, gut feeling congress persons wanting to shut down Foster Farms? The microorganism is common to all poultry and FF has demonstrated that they have implemented several corrective actions. Congress needs to use the power of funding education and teach consumers how to properly handle and prepare poultry and other foods for healthy consumption. The consumer must take responsibility for part of the cause of illness from foods like poultry. As a side bar, why doesn't grants be given to universities to study the flora of the human gut and restore it to what we used to have before all the excess use of antimicrobial soaps, wipes and sprays. I am 71 and survived eating a little dirt.

By Ted 7/7/2014 3:41:53 PM
I don't know all the facts, but do know that if the product was properly cooked and not cross contaminated no one would be sick. Now, if Foster's incidence is higher than it should be - that is another issue that they should and must get under control. "Pilgrim, life is tough.....and it's even tougher if you're stupid!" John Wayne

By Joe Dubas 7/7/2014 2:56:48 PM
Why does it take so long for USDA to take any action. Any Insp, with a set would have taken an action, and let the chips fall where they may. The problem today is that if the paper work is in order everything is OK. If the plant HACCP is followed this salmonella problem would have been nipped in the bud, This salmonella can not be seen by the naked eye but is found in lab samples if the ammount of samples taken were enough. Hence a very good HACCP program. No matter how many inspectors are working the line positions they will never spot salmonella. What about in plant inspection, it did and does work for drug residue testing. COME ON PEOPLE WAKE UP. Thank you/ Joe D. 40 year retired inspector in meat and poultry inspection.