Foster Farms Chicken Recall: No Outbreak Cited
Finally, after 16 months of continuous problems and after their chicken sickened at least 621 people in 29 states since March 2013, Foster Farms has announced a voluntary recall of chicken released from three California plants.
Though the current outbreak has been going on for a long time, until recently, there was little or no specific evidence that could be used by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) to directly link the Foster Farms chicken to the outbreak. Then, on June 23, the FSIS received a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that linked an illness to the consumption of Foster Farms boneless chicken breasts. FSIS immediately collected the product for testing and confirmed the CDC’s information using epidemiological methods. According to their investigation, the specific product in question was produced at the Foster Farms Fresno, California plant on March 8, 10 and 11, 2014. It was purchased on March 16, 2014 and consumed on April 29, 2014, with the consumer reporting his illness on May 5, 2014.
Armed with their new information, the FSIS engaged in some intense negotiation to get Foster Farms to even agree to recall one million pounds of chicken. The fresh chicken recalled, including drumsticks, thighs, chicken tenders and livers, have “use or freeze by” dates between Mar. 21 to Mar. 29, 2014. The packages will have a Plant code of P-6137, P-6137A or P-7632. Most of the chicken was sold under the Foster Farms brand, although some was sold under several store brands, including Kroger, Safeway, Savemart, Sunland and Valbest. The fresh chicken products were shipped to a number of retail chains, including Costco, Kroger and Safeway stores and distribution centers in eight states. In addition to the fresh chicken, the recall also includes Sunland brand Frozen Chicken products with “best by” dates of 3/7/15, 3/11/15 or 3/25/15.
No fresh chicken currently in stores is included with the recall, but FSIS is asking that customers check the use or freeze-by dates very carefully to make sure they don’t match up. Foster Farms has refused to expand the recall, and insists that the chicken produced on those three days are the only problem.
According to some reports, last October, the FSIS sent a letter to Foster Farms, informing them that an inspection revealed “fecal material on carcasses” and “poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary nonfood contact surfaces and direct product contamination.” In response, the company asserted that they have made changes to their plants, and are now very clean. Among the changes include stricter screening of te chickens, as well as more sanitary plant conditions.
Some in Congress have decided they’ve had enough. A bill was introduced in June that would make recalls less voluntary, by requiring the USDA to recall any food products that has been contaminated with bacteria resistant to two or more antibiotics, as well as those contaminated by bacteria that cause serious illness or death.
More needs to be done to clean up the chicken producing industry. Every outbreak is potentially preventable, if adequate precautions are taken. If you or a loved one have contracted a Salmonella infection and become ill or died as a result, please contact the Foodborne Illness Safety Lawyers at Hill Law Firm to protect your rights.