Three Foster Farms plants narrowly escaped closure last night, delivering the U.S. Department of Agriculture with plans to address a salmonella outbreak just in the nick of time.
The USDA had threatened to shut down poultry processing plants in Livingston and Fresno if Foster Farms failed to provide action plans to improve food handling safety procedures in response to the recent nationwide salmonella outbreak, blamed on Foster Farms chicken.
In a statement the USDA said Foster Farms had cooperated and agreed to make changes at the three plants.
“Foster Farms has submitted and implemented immediate, substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations. Inspectors will verify that these changes are being implemented in a continuous and ongoing basis,” the statement read.
According the Center for Disease Control, salmonella cases linked to the plants total 213 in California alone and 278 overall in 17 states. Illnesses were reported from March 1 through Sept. 24 and about 42 percent of people sickened in the outbreak have been hospitalized, twice as many as normal with salmonella infections.
Consumption of chicken contaminated with salmonella can cause salmonellosis, a common bacterial foodborne illness. The infection can be life-threatening to those with weak immune systems, but most are affected with diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours of consumption.
The USDA recommends all consumers handle raw poultry carefully to prevent the spread of salmonella contamination to other foods and surfaces. Any raw chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for safety.
Foster Farms operates a turkey processing facility in Turlock which is unaffected.