Nearly 300 people in 17 states, including five in Texas, were sickened
by salmonella in raw chicken processed by three plants in California.
The USDA threatened to close down the Foster Farms facilities after the
company failed to respond to letters sent by the agency about the
defective products. Because salmonella contamination in raw food is not illegal as it is
in ground meat, the USDA had no power to directly order the plants to
close or for the company to issue a recall of its products. However, the
agency could withdraw its meat inspectors from the processing facilities,
which would effectively close them down; food must be inspected before
leaving those plants.
In letters that the UDSA sent to the head of Foster Farms, agency officials
told him that they had detected high levels of the illness-causing salmonella
Heidelberg bacteria at three of the company's facilities. The letter
included a deadline for a response, which, if not met, would mean that
inspections would be withheld. The officials said in the letter that the
prevalence of salmonella in their finished poultry products posed a risk
to public health.
At the time of the letter, Foster Farms had issued no recalls of its raw
chicken pieces. The products were distributed mainly in Washington, California,
and Oregon, but consumers in 17 states had reported illness from the company's meat.
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Source: NBC, "USDA threatens to shutter Foster Farms plants tied to salmonella outbreak", JoNel Aleccia, October 09, 2013