July 8, 2014 — Two members of Congress are urging Foster Farms to shut down several chicken processing facilities that have been linked to over 600 cases of food poisoning.
Rep. Rosa LeLauro, D-Conn, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. called for the shut-down just after Foster Farms recalled chicken that was produced on just three days in March. The recall was issued after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) linked the hospitalization of a 10 year-old boy with the consumption of contaminated chicken.
DeLauro and Slaughter introduced legislation that would require the USDA to recall chicken that is contaminated with pathogens that can cause disease or are resistant to two or more antibiotics. Currently, raw chicken is allowed to be contaminated with Salmonella, but not ready-to-eat foods like rotisserie chicken.
As of July 2, the CDC estimates that 621 people in 29 states have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, of whom 40% have been hospitalized.
The strains are resistant to several commonly-prescribed antibiotics and the rate of hospitalization is about double the average rate for Salmonella outbreaks. Food poisoning is widely under-reported to state health officials, which is why many experts believe the actual number of illnesses could be in the thousands.
The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) says it has no authority to force Foster Farms to recall the chicken or shut down the plants. However, federal inspectors suspended production at three poultry plants in California in January. One plant was found to be infected with cockroaches four times in the past five months. Foster Farms is the sixth-largest chicken processor in the United States.
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