The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has threatened to halt operations at three Foster Farms poultry plants in California that are linked to a Salmonella outbreak that caused 278 people across the country to become ill. Foster Farms has until October 10 to tell the agency how it will fix the problem.

A September USDA sampling showed that raw chicken processed by those facilities included strains of Salmonella that were linked to the outbreak, but Foster Farms has not recalled any of its products, according to an Associated Press report.


In a letter to Foster Farms, the USDA said those samples coupled with illnesses suggest that the sanitary conditions at the facility "could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health." In the letter, Yudhbir Sharma of USDA's Alameda, Calif., district office said Foster Farms has failed to demonstrate that it has adequate controls in place to address the Salmonella issue. He said that in one of the facilities, 25 percent of the samples taken were positive for Salmonella.

In a statement released on October 7, Foster Farms said it is working in partnership with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce incidence of Salmonella heidelberg on raw chicken products produced at three company facilities in central California.

"We deeply regret any foodborne illness that may be associated with any of our products," said Foster Farms President Ron Foster. "Food safety is at the very heart of our business. It is a continuous process of improvement. In addition to collaborating with FSIS and CDC, the company has retained national experts in epidemiology and food safety technology to assess current practices and identify opportunities for further improvement."