Monday, March 30, 2015

Foster Farms leads in reducing salmonella

Foster Farms has rebounded from a salmonella issue that resulted in 634 people in 29 states suffering from food poisoning, a third of them so sick that they had to be treated in hospitals.

Now, 14 months later, it has trimmed the incidence of salmonella in its chicken products from 25 to less two per cent.

It has invested $75 million in food safety and continues to search for ways to improve.

One of the things it did is routine for Canadian chicken farmers – a total removal of chicken litter from 112 chicken barns on two farms it operates in California.

It also washed and disinfected the barns and equipment, again a practice that is routine in Canada at the end of each six-week quota period. Many U.S. chicken farmers maintain litter in barns for several flocks.

But Foster Farms also fumigated the barns, a step beyond normal Canadian practice.

The on-farm measures reduced the incidence of salmonella in birds arriving at the company’s processing plants from 75 per cent in Msrch, 2014, to less than 20 per cent this year.

The company set a target of five per cent, compared with an industry-wide average of 25 per cent, for raw processed chicken and chicken parts. It got that down to as low as 1.7 per cent, exceeding its goal.

That required major improvements in plant sanitation, not only for after-shift cleanups, but also during processing.

The company is taking far more samples now, and is getting test results back within an hour or two so responses are much quicker than they used to be.

At the farms, the company collected and tested 8,000 samples from walls, ceilings, water lines and litter. It also hired specialists to analyze the results.

One drawback remains: the company doesn’t know which of the many changes it has instituted is responsible for the dramatic reduction in salmonellad and therefore doesn’t know which are the most cost effective.

The story of Foster Farms response to salmonella is told in the current issue of Meatingplace Magazine.