Since 2013, Foster Farms has been in the news a number of times as a result of numerous salmonella outbreaks. One processing plant in Kelso, WA had dozens of health violations in 2014, according to records obtained by the Portland, OR local news station KGW. The TV station recently published federal inspection records.
"There were multiple times when food safety problems were identified and then not addressed," said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America in Washington D.C.
Food Safety News reported that the station was able to obtain federal inspection records from Foster Farms dating back to September 2014. KGW uncovered 40 food safety violations within a six month period. The reports included instances of fecal matter being found on chicken as well as the line speed at the processing plant moving too fast.
"You shouldn't have fecal matter on chickens," said Waldrop, reported on KGW. "That presents a risk to consumers because they could get sick if they consume that chicken or other chickens that were processed at the same time."
According to the report, on one occasion, a dead chicken carcass was found on the floor, accidentally kicked by an employee, and then put back on the line with the other chicken carcasses. To date, 634 people from 29 states and Puerto Rico, have been sickened with Salmonella Heidelberg. In all, 38 percent of those that contracted salmonella have been hospitalized. Many of the salmonella samples tested during the outbreak have been found to be antibiotic resistant.
According to CDC, “The outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. Although these antibiotics are not typically used to treat Salmonella bloodstream infections or other severe Salmonella infections, antibiotic resistance can be associated with increased risk of hospitalization in infected individuals.”
In January of last year, United States Department of Agriculture temporarily shut down a Foster Farms chicken processing plant in Livingston, Calif. for what it called egregious sanitation violations. For example, cockroaches were observed in the processing line.
Foster Farms responded to KGW’s report by saying, it is “committed to the highest levels of food safety” and regrets illnesses previously associated with their products.
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