WASHINGTON, July 7, 2014 – U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., are calling on USDA to shut down all Foster Farms poultry processing facilities until a year-long salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 600 people in 29 states is under control.
Foster Farms, based in Livingston, California, issued a voluntary recall for an undetermined amount of its chicken products on July 3 and an official announcement from USDA was released on July 4.
“We have been saying for months that tainted chicken does not belong on the grocery stores shelves or the dinner tables of American families,” DeLauro and Slaughter said in a news release. “How many more people will fall ill, or even be hospitalized, before USDA does the right thing and cracks down on companies that threaten our families’ health and safety?”
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said that, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has been able to link one case of Salmonella Heidelberg illness to a boneless chicken breast produced by Foster Farms. FSIS says its investigation into the salmonella outbreak continues.
The recall officially involves chicken products produced by Foster Farms with “use or freeze by” dates ranging from March 16-31 on fresh chicken and “best by” dates ranging from March 7-11, 2015, on frozen chicken products. USDA said the products were available for sale in stores in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington but have been removed from inventory and are no longer available for purchase.
The National Chicken Council issued a statement assuring consumers that the domestic chicken supply was safe and healthy and noted reports by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Foster Farms’ steps to reduce salmonella since October 2013.
“Even though (poultry producers have) collectively made tremendous progress in reducing salmonella on raw chicken to all-time low levels, the fact is any raw agricultural product, whether it’s fresh fruit, vegetables, meat or poultry, is susceptible to naturally occurring bacteria that could make someone sick if improperly handled or cooked,” NCC President Mike Brown said.
Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, and DeLauro have introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act to help combat confusion over USDA authority on the issue. The congresswomen say the bill “… would allow USDA to prevent dangerous, antibiotic-resistant pathogens from ever getting to supermarkets in the first place.”
The bill would give the USDA mandatory recall authority for meat, poultry and eggs contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, salmonella, campylobacter and other pathogens.
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