Three Foster Farms poultry plants tied to a Salmonella outbreak that caused 278 people to become ill will stay open. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on October 10 reviewed Foster Farms' safety plan for its three facilities in Livingston, Calif., and Fresno, Calif., and found the company's food safety controls to be satisfactory.
FSIS issued a public health alert on October 7 due to concerns that illness caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at the three California facilities. The agency also notified Foster Farms it must prove it has adequate Salmonella controls in place by October 10, or FSIS would call back its inspectors and effectively halt production at the facilities.
Foster Farms implemented several new food safety controls since August, and the company has expressed commitment to install added processes during an enhanced inspection period over the next 90 days.
"We started this process more than two months ago, and this officially validates our progress, but we are not stopping here," said Ron Foster, president and CEO of Foster Farms. "We are putting every resource and all of our energy toward food safety with the confidence that Foster Farms' plants will be the most stringent in the industry."
USDA-FSIS inspectors continue to inspect and approve the safety of Foster Farms chicken daily.
Earlier on October 10, addressing why there was no need for a recall in California, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer, explained in a statement: "The CDPH has not requested Foster Farms to recall chickens because, with proper handling and preparation, this product is safe for consumption. Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present. Cooking chicken fully to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the bacteria present. Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume."
"All of us at Foster Farms regret any illness associated with our products," said Foster. "We have worked relentlessly to address these issues and will continue to do so as we work to regain consumer trust and confidence in the Foster Farms brand. On behalf of everyone at Foster Farms, that is my commitment to you."