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Foster Farms Plant Closes Again

Fried chicken
Fried chicken
Malcolm Bedell/FromAway.com

Foster Farms says it has "voluntarily and temporarily" closed its Livingston, Calif. chicken-processing plant after it was shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last Wednesday and then reopened Saturday. The company said in a statement that it is "exercising vigilance" and dedicating additional time to make sure its cockroach cleanup plan is implemented, the Christian Science Monitor reports. As Yogi Berra said, feels like deja-vu all over again!

(We're wondering what they found during the cleanup process. Yikes.) 

Chicken slaughter processing had resumed Saturday after Foster Farms said it had met the demands of the USDA by performing a thorough cleanup and "treatment" of the plant. The federal agency had taken the unusual step of pulling its inspectors and closing the plant after citing it for cockroaches five times since September.

See also: USDA Won't Close Foster Farms Plants Implicated in Outbreak

Cockroaches can carry food-borne pathogens such as salmonella. The plant, and two other Foster Farms operations in Fresno, have been implicated in an ongoing virulent salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 400 people in 23 states and Puerto Rico since March, resulting in the hospitalization of over 40%.

Meanwhile, on Monday the Natural Resources Defense Council and more than 30 other leading health, environment, animal welfare and consumer protection groups sent a letter to Foster Farms CEO Ron Foster asking the company to disclose its use of antibiotics and pledge to avoid routine use of these drugs to raise its chickens, which can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as that seen in the current outbreak. Among the signatories are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the California Nurses Assn., the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

See also: Tyson Chicken Recalled; USDA Shuts Down Foster Farms Plant

More than half of the salmonella samples taken from the Foster Farms outbreak patients have been resistant to at least one antibiotic.

"We all would like to know if Foster Farms, through its antibiotics practices, is breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria and contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance that can threaten our health," the NRDC said in a statement.

This is a crisis moment for the chicken industry in the U.S. It's going to take a lot more than bleach and Brillo pads to clean up this mess.


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