Foster Farms Factories, Source of Salmonella Outbreak, Remain Open

By Jeffrey Kopman
Published: October 11, 2013

The three Foster Farms factories linked to a salmonella outbreak will not be closed, according to a statement from the United States Department of Agriculture. The outbreak peaked during the summer — when foodborne illness outbreaks are most common — but has continued through the fall.

The subject of a food safety investigation since July, Foster Farms has been linked to the outbreak that first occurred in March of this year. Three of their plants potentially faced shutdown earlier this week, according to a letter sent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The letter, sent on Monday, threatened to close the Foster Farms plants unless they provided an adequate plan to ensure the safety of their customers.

Foster Farms fulfilled this request, and the response convinced the USDA to allow the plants to remain open, according to a report from CBS News. The organization claims Foster Farms made immediate and substantive changes to their food processing.

Foster Farms chicken has sickened at least 278 people. Many of these patients contracted an antibiotic-resistant salmonella strain, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC officials believe these antibiotic-resistant strains have contributed to the high number of hospitalizations caused by the outbreak — approximately 42 percent of victims have been hospitalized.

Ron Foster, the president of Foster Farms, posted a note on the company’s website in response to the outbreak.

“The alert that regulators issued based on illnesses over the past seven months emphasizes the need to fully cook and properly handle raw poultry,” explained Foster in the note. “Our facilities have always met and exceeded USDA standards. USDA continues to inspect and approve our chicken products as safe to consume.”

The outbreak spread across 18 states, and forced some CDC workers to return to work after being furloughed.

“We have about 30 people working on this outbreak investigation and others,” Barbara Reynolds, Ph.D., director of the division of public affairs at the CDC, told “We brought back about 10 people who had been furloughed.  We also reassigned some to this work who were not furloughed; for example, our Public Health Service commissioned officers.”

MORE: 10 Killer Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

10. 1996 E. coli outbreak: The juice company Odwalla made a batch of apple juice made from blemished fruit, causing approximately 20 E. coli infections and at least one death, according to Washington state health officials. Click through for the full list of deadly. (Thinkstock/George Doyle)

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