The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is ordering Foster Farms to clean up its act or get shut down in response to an ongoing salmonella outbreak.
The outbreak has sickened an estimated 278 people across 17 states, and hospitalized about half of those reported cases, officials say. The outbreak has been linked to salmonella found in raw Foster Farms poultry.
Federal officials believe two Foster Farms plants in Fresno and one in Livingston may not have adequately processed poultry, tainting raw chicken products in packaging bearing P6137, P6137A, or P7632 inspection marks.
Foster Farms faces a deadline to produce action plans for clean-up efforts by the end of the day today.
The USDA recommends all consumers handle raw poultry carefully to prevent the spread of salmonella contamination to other foods and surfaces. As salmonella is often present in raw chicken, the meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for safety.
In a statement, Foster Farms President Ron Foster said, “food safety is at the heart of our family business. On behalf of my family, I am sorry for any foodborne illness associated with Foster Farms chicken and for any concern this may have caused you.”
“Consumers should know that as recently as Oct. 8, USDA-FSIS publicly assured the safety of our chicken: 'Foster Farms chicken is safe to eat but, as with all raw chicken, consumers must use proper preparation, handling and cooking practices.'”
From March to mid-September, the duration of the outbreak, Foster Farms says more than 25 million consumers have safely consumed their chicken.
Despite the outbreak, Foster Farms has announced no plans to recall any of its chicken products.