Foster Farms, the poultry farm identified as the source of a multi-state outbreak of salmonella poisonings, was forced to explain to federal authorities how it plans to stop the rash of illnesses or else three of its slaughterhouses would be shut down. The warning letter highlighted unsanitary conditions at the plants and cited a dozen instances this year in which feces was found on carcasses.
The company was able to show the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) satisfactory plans to improve conditions, thus the plants will remain operational for now. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service also did not mandate a recall of chicken from those factories, but did warn consumers to use care when handling raw chicken and to cook the chicken to a minimum of 165 degrees before eating it.
At least 278 people have been sickened in 18 states, and dozens have been hospitalized in this latest outbreak. Foster Farms is also responsible for a previous outbreak of salmonella last March. Both outbreaks were of a strain known as salmonella Heidelberg, which has shown signs of resistance to antibiotics, which may explain the higher than expected numbers of hospitalizations.
People infected with salmonella experience nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Most people recover in a matter of days but the illness can be more serious in infants, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems.
Foster Farms is the 10th largest poultry producer in the country. The company released a statement saying it is putting all of its resources into improving the safety of its fresh chicken.