Monday, May 4, 2015

Foster Farms problems persisted

Foster Farms chicken was sickening consumers with salmonella food poisoning for years before a huge outbreak finally shut the California plant down.

According to the Oregonian newspaper, state officials in Oregon and Washington had linked salmonella illnesses to Foster Farms chicken as early as 2004.

There were more sick people in 2009 and 2012.

Oregon and Washington public health officials repeatedly told the United States Department of Agriculture about the salmonella.

"State officials pushed federal regulators to act, but salmonella-tainted chicken flowed into grocery stores, first in the Northwest, then across the country.

“Oregon investigators became so familiar with the culprit they gave it a name: the Foster Farms strain,” reports the newspaper.

In 2012, illnesses spread to almost a dozen states. The next year, a new outbreak emerged that sickened more than 600 people across the country.

“Much has been written about that last 16-month ordeal and the USDA’s slow response. But the way the federal agency handled it was not an isolated case,” writes reporter Lynne Terry.

“Time after time dating to 2004, Oregon and Washington officials alerted the USDA’s food safety agency about salmonella illnesses, but the federal government chose not to warn the public or ask Foster Farms for a recall,” writes Terry.

Foster Farms has since cleaned up its act and now has the lowest incidence of salmonella – less than two per cent – among large-volume chicken-processing plants in the U.S.

Its cleanup included on-farm measures.

I think something similar could happen in Canada. Not the cleanup, but the marketing of salmonella-tainted chicken.