Foster Farms is putting every resource it has into controlling the risk of Salmonella in its chicken, the company's president said in a statement. Since the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on October 7 issued a public health alert tying the company to a Salmonella outbreak, the agency has declared its products as safe and wholesome, he added.
On October 7, as part of the public health alert, the USDA issued Notifications of Intended Enforcement for its plants in Livingston, Calif., and Fresno, Calif., Foster noted. This was an official request by the USDA to demonstrate improved operations, or in this case for Foster Farms, to identify new measures toward Salmonella control in the company's Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plan, and in its immediate implementation for mutual satisfaction. The agency informed the company that it has until October 10 to demonstrate it has adequate controls in place or it would cease operations at the facilities linked to the Salmonella outbreak.
According to a statement from Ron Foster, president and CEO of Foster Farms, the agency appears satisfied with what is being done.
"Consumers should know that as recently as Oct. 8, USDA-FSIS publicly assured the safety of our chicken: 'Foster Farms chicken is safe to eat but, as with all raw chicken, consumers must use proper preparation, handling and cooking practices.' There is no recall in effect, and FSIS continues to inspect our poultry on a daily basis, certifying it as 'Grade A wholesome,'" Foster said.
Foster said the company is fully cooperating with FSIS and is responding with new and already-implemented practices in the affected plants. Some of these interventions have been in place for nearly two months and are proving to be successful, he said. In addition, Foster Farms has brought in national food safety experts to assess the processes. Earlier in 2013, Foster Farms implemented similar new technology and interventions, which were found to be highly effective at reducing Salmonella at its Pacific-Northwest facility, and according to Foster, the FSIS has been fully satisfied with the results.
Foster added that the recent Consumer Reports coverage regarding Salmonella on raw poultry involved product that was purchased and tested in July, prior to the new processes and controls being implemented at Foster Farms California facilities.
"These same processes have been found to be highly effective in the Pacific Northwest and have met the full satisfaction of the FSIS. It should be noted that we were not informed about any investigation by either agency prior to Aug. 9. As soon as we were informed, we acted quickly to bring in national food safety experts to assess our processes and have reinforced them with new technologies proven to be effective," said Foster.