It’s been two days since three Foster Farms plants in California were discovered to be the source of the drug-resistant salmonella outbreak, which turns out to be the second outbreak to hit Foster Farms this year. In that time, Foster Farms has issued no recalls, but plenty of press statements about the safety of their chicken.
Less than 12 hours before this writing, Foster Farms released another press statement from president and CEO Ron Foster attempting to reassure the public. “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.’ There is no recall in effect and FSIS continues to inspect our poultry on a daily basis, certifying it as Grade A wholesome,” the press statement said.
The statement went on to address the USDA’s Notifications of Intended Enforcement for food plants in Livingston and Fresno, California. “Foster Farms is dedicated to resolving any concerns by the USDA. We are fully cooperating with FSIS during this process and are responding with new and already implemented practices in the affected plants. Some of these interventions have been in place for nearly two months and are proving to be successful. In addition, we have brought in national food safety experts to assess our processes,” the statement continued.
The LA Times notes that, in spite of the outbreak of salmonella Heidelberg, Foster Farms has no plans to recall any of the chicken products potentially involved in the outbreak (the ones with serial numbers P6137, P6137A and P7632). This isn’t surprising because they refused to recall their products from the last outbreak, as well.
Craig Hedberg, a food safety expert from the University of Minnesota, believes that “From a business standpoint, it sends a tremendously bad message to your customers… They obviously have this strain present in their chickens and they’re not adequately controlling it in their plants and it’s getting out to customers.”
A toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center, Urvashi Rangan, said in a statement, “It is outrageous that Foster Farms has not issued a recall in the face of so many illnesses associated with their product… Foster Farms has a responsibility to public health to take this step. Telling consumers to not worry and cook their chicken thoroughly is simply inadequate and irresponsible. How many illnesses will they wait for before taking action?”[Image via this YouTube news report of the subject]