In conjunction with the January 21 announcement by the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service ( FSIS) regarding a proposed 15.4 percent standard for Salmonella prevalence in raw poultry parts, poultry producer Foster Farms has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining Salmonella prevalence levels below 5 percent.
Foster Farms has maintained an average Salmonella prevalence level of two percent for the last nine consecutive months, the company stated. This performance record is the result of a $75 million food safety program launched in 2013 after a Salmonella outbreak was traced to Foster Farms products and caused more than 600 people in the United States and Puerto Rico to become sick.
"We support the USDA in taking this critical step to advance food safety across the poultry industry," said Foster Farms President and CEO Ron Foster. "Foster Farms has made a tremendous investment to ensure that our practices represent the very best in the industry. We stand by our commitment to lead the industry with Salmonella prevalence levels of less than 5 percent. We remain dedicated to continuous food safety advances."
Prior to the FSIS announcement, there was no established regulatory standard for raw poultry parts, though the most recent 2011-2012 reported industry average was 25 percent. Foster Farms has worked closely with the USDA, CDC, poultry industry and retailers to share its learnings in controlling Salmonella in the interest of creating a safer food supply system nationwide. The company continues to draw on the best food safety advice in and outside of the poultry industry through its Food Safety Advisory Board.
In 2013, Foster Farms implemented a $75 million food safety program that effectively reduced Salmonella system-wide from the breeder level, to the farms where the birds are raised and to the plants where the chicken is processed and packaged. This included improvements to equipment and processes, the implementation of a continuous testing program and food safety education.
Foster Farms' multi-hurdle program has been credited by the CDC and the USDA for its consistent control of Salmonella in raw chicken. The company has also been recognized for its leadership in controlling Salmonella by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a champion of improved food safety. Based on the program's success, Foster Farms is actively sharing data and insights with other poultry and meat producers. As part of this collaboration, Dr. Robert O'Connor, Foster Farms senior vice president for technical services, leads a National Chicken Council committee on Salmonella reduction at the parts level and has informed retailers in their development of vendor protocols.