May 29, 2014 — A lawsuit (PDF) has been filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failing to recall Foster Farms chicken that may be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wants the USDA to declare the strains to be adulterants under federal law and prohibit the sale of chicken that is contaminated — similar to what the USDA does with E. coli. Currently, chicken is allowed to have low levels of Salmonella contamination because it can be killed if consumers handle it and cook it properly.
The problem is that hundreds — potentially thousands — of people have developed antibiotic-resistant Salmonella infections. The outbreak has been going on for over a year, none of the products have been recalled, and 50 new illnesses were reported in the last two months.
The outbreak has been traced to three Foster Farms facilities in California — two in Fresno and one in Livingston. The USDA threatened to shutter the plants after several inspections found “egregious” violations, including live cockroaches infesting areas in contact with raw chicken, “fecal matter on carcasses,” and “poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary nonfood contact surfaces and direct product contamination.”
The facilities were allowed to remain open after Foster Farms immediately implemented changes to reduce Salmonella rates. The rates do appear to be slowly declining. Major retailers, including Costco and Kroger-owned stores, took some Foster Farms products off store shelves last year.
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