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.