The Foster Farms salmonella outbreak may have grown during the government shut-down, but no one but the company’s executives are to blame for how long it has continued.
Nearly a month after Foster Farms was fingered as the source of the salmonella outbreak that caused thousands of illnesses across America, the company still refuses to institute an official recall.
Defending his bizarre decision, company President Ron Foster said that “the tainted birds met or exceeded industry standards for salmonella, and that the firm’s products were still safe to eat if handled properly and cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to the LA Times.
“If we had pulled our product from the market and put someone else’s in, we’d be lying to the consumer because you’re saying someone else is better,” Foster said told the LA Times.
That probably comes as small comfort to the 42 percent of recent salmonella cases that have been hospitalized—which is unusually high for a salmonella outbreak. Not surprisingly, Foster’s lackluster apology has drawn criticism from the food safety industry. “Mr. Foster is simply not up to being the “cock of the walk” of one to the largest chicken companies in the world,” wrote Bill Marler of Food Safety News.
With Foster Farms unwilling to take responsibility, grocery stores have taken action on behalf of their customers. Kroger Co., which operates Ralphs and Food 4 Less, has already pulled chicken from its stores from the three plants—two in Fresno and one in Livingston.
Costco has expanded its previous recall of Foster Farms chicken products, “pulling nearly 13,500 rotisserie chickens and nearly 640 units of chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters and rotisserie chicken salad sold under its own label between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15 from its store in South San Francisco, Calif.” Interestingly, Costco cooks its chickens to 180 degrees, higher than the minimum temperature, to kill harmful bacteria, but salmonella was still found to be present. Cross-contamination after cooking is listed as a possibility.
Despite the chicken industry’s excuses that there’s no reason to avoid poultry, most consumers are unwilling to take the risk. “We should all steer clear at least of Foster Farms chicken, or any of the other brands produced in that company’s California plants, although they’re not all labeled such,” advises Mark Bittman of the New York Times.
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