The same two Congress members who proposed the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act are calling for the USDA to close all Foster Farms poultry processing facilities until the Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms is resolved. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Louise Slaughter, D-NY, urged the closure of Foster Farms facilities, four days after the company issued its first voluntary recall to products tied to the outbreak that began in the spring of 2013.

On July 3, Foster Farms recalled an undetermined amount of chicken products that may be contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. The affected products contain labeling listing “use or freeze by” dates from March 21, 2014, to March 29, 2014, with plant codes of P-6137, P-6137A or P-7632, and frozen Sunland chicken products with “best by” dates of March 7, 2015, March 11, 2015, and March 25, 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 621 people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been affected by the outbreak.

USDA can have authority to close Foster Farms, representatives say

“We have been saying for months that tainted chicken does not belong on the grocery stores shelves or the dinner tables of American families,” the representatives said in a press release. “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?”

DeLauro and Slaughter allege the USDA will claim it does not have the authority to issue a mandatory recall or shut down Foster Farms facilities, but add that passage of the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act would give USDA authority to either issue a mandatory recall or close Foster Farms facilities.

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Foster Farms addresses recall, food safety initiatives

Foster Farms stated that it has updated its food safety protocols since the Salmonella outbreak began, and now leads the poultry industry in reducing incidence levels of Salmonella to less than 5 percent, well below the industry average.

“The most recent 3-month testing conducted by Foster Farms and shared with the USDA affirms the progress the company has made with levels companywide at 3 percent. These reduced levels are the product of a $75 million, multi-hurdle farm-to-processing food safety program which the company has undertaken since October 2013. Foster Farms products in grocery stores today have been produced under the most stringent processes and are inspected and approved as safe daily by the USDA,” the company stated.

 “The products involved in last week’s voluntary recall were produced during a limited timeframe in March. Foster Farms immediately initiated the recall process on the evening of Thursday, July 3, once the FSIS provided information regarding products and timing involved. No current company products sold at retail are involved. All Foster Farms products, as with all raw poultry products, are safe to consume when properly handled and fully cooked. Experts agree that even with very low levels of incidence, the poultry industry cannot completely eliminate the risk of illness associated with raw poultry. Foster Farms is sharing its insights with the poultry industry and with the government to improve Salmonella controls industrywide for the benefit of consumers throughout the nation. The company has also partnered with state agriculture departments and independent organizations such as the Partnership for Food Safety Education to raise awareness of safe handling and cooking practices for chicken.”