California chicken salmonella outbreak

October 10, 2013

foster farmsThree California plants that sell chicken to Ralphs and Food 4 Less are blamed for an outbreak of salmonella poisoning that has sickened at least 278 people nationwide. [LATimes]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday threatened to close three California poultry plants operated by Foster Farms because sanitary conditions at the facilities were so poor that they posed a “serious ongoing threat to public health.” The agency has given Foster Farms until Thursday to clean up the plants in Fresno and Livingston, Calif.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 42 percent of sickened individuals were hospitalized — double the normal rate for such an outbreak. In addition, salmonella strains detected were showing resistance to antibiotics.

“It is outrageous that Foster Farms has not issued a recall in the face of so many illnesses associated with their product,” said Urvashi Rangan, toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center, to the Los Angeles Times. “We are calling on Foster Farms and the retail outlets that sell Foster Farms to recall the chicken processed at these plants. Foster Farms has a responsibility to public health to take this step.”

Even though a recall has not been initiated, officials from Ralphs and Food 4 Less said they are pulling the chicken from the shelves.

“Those include fresh products, which would be like whole fryers, breasts, drums, thighs and ground chicken,” said Kendra Doyel, a spokeswoman for Ralphs, to the Times. “It would not include cooked or processed products like lunch meat [and] hot dogs.”

The chicken in question has the USDA marks of inspection P6137, P6137A or P7632.


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The legacy of factory farming raises it’s diseased countenance once again. There is no amount of government oversight that can eliminate the dangers of factory farming. Once you start processing that amount of food in one spot even a small contamination will get multiplied. If you need 1.50/lb chicken this is what you will reap. Buy local, buy from small farms, if you can, get to know your farmer. Go to farmers markets and above all learn to use safe meat handling practices, there is no excuse to contract salmonella in your own kitchen.

Hmmm…I guess the chicken never should have crossed the road.

What was not mentioned was if there was any relation to the 2008 Proposition 2?

The proposition adds a chapter to Division 20 of the California Health and Safety Code to prohibit the confinement of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. The measure deals with three types of confinement: veal crates, battery cages, and sow gestation crates.

One of the proponents arguments was an increased chance for salmonella. It could just be a coincidence, but I suppose it will take a while to compile the data post-Prop 2 and see if there is an increase or decrease (or no change) in salmonella outbreaks.

“The chicken in question has the USDA marks of inspection…”

Seems that inspection is not what we’re hoping it is.

Yep, 3,000+ people a year die from food poisoning. The FDA (in 2012) only inspected 10,000 of the 167,000 domestic food manufacturers were inspected. Overseas, only 1,300 of the 254,000 facilities were inspected.

Yet we have over 30 NRC employees for each and every nuclear power plant…zero deaths per year.


Given the amount of money the FOSTER POULTRY FARMS PAC filters into our state any surprise our government has not ordered them to recall.

The government does not need to order them, they do it voluntarily. I know they must be a big, evil corporation, but believe it or not, they do not want to poison their customers.

Hard to imagine, sometimes, but it is even in big, evil corporations’ best interest to keep as many of their customers alive and happy. Strange, I know.

Sorry Roy, but you’re absolutely full of it (as usual…quit being a shill for big biz). I just returned a cut up chicken with the evil P6137 mark on it. Since the chicken was purchased on Monday, with all the publicity I figured that fresh product would be on the shelves today. NO!!!!!!!! I was totally appalled when I went back to the refrigerator with the chicken and discovered that EVERY Forsters Farms package, whether cut up chickens or various different parts, was marked with either P6137 or P6137A. I compalined vehemently to the store manager and wrote the store’s corporate headquarters

This isn’t the first time Foster’s Farms has been in the forefront of a salmonella issue but this time it’s much worse than other outbreaks. For them (Fosters) to say that the chicken is safe if handled and cooked properly is disingenuous at best. It’s pretty well known that almost every chicken processing plant concocts a “fecal soup” in processing the birds…the careful plants keep it to a minimum. Foster’s apparently doesn’t give a damn about its customers…

Indeed they don’t WANT to poison their customers but they are willing to take the risk if they can save enough on processing costs. It is simply an educated gamble for them — just like BP or other big energy companies taking risks to keep oil extraction costs low. In this case, Foster Farms may have lost their bet — to the detriment of their customers as well as their own reputation and balance sheet.

There are at least two ways to deal with such an amoral disregard for public health and safety. The first involves stronger regulations and better enforcement of them. There is a cost in tax dollars to achieve these and I know you don’t like that nor do you like the potential for creating a self-enlarging bureaucracy.

The other is to weaken the “corporate shield” making those higher up the ladder (up to and including the CEOs and Boards of Directors) personally liable for negligence resulting in substantial damages to members of the public. This would encourage a greater emphasis on safety and responsibility in corporate policies and reduce the temptation to use strong but vague directions to contain costs — thus encouraging

subordinates to cut corners. (If you don’t think this is what happens in a lot of big companies, your exposure to them has been very limited.)