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Foster Farms finally recalls their salmonella-contaminated chicken

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Despite the previous lack of action on occasions when salmonella bacteria have been linked to their products, the chicken processing company Foster Farms, of Fresno, CA, has staunchly refused at those times to recall their poultry. This has been an ongoing situation with this corporation, which has maintained an attitude of “so what, chicken does get salmonella sometimes, no biggie.” Now, as of Thursday, July 3, 2014, Foster Farms is finally recalling tainted chicken, which has been proven to contain the antibiotic-resistant Heidelberg strain of salmonella. (See http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/advice-consumers.html)

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service was able to trace some chicken breasts, stored in the home freezer of someone infected with the multi-drug resistant variety of salmonella, to the Foster Farms company. Salmonella poisoning, no matter which strain is involved, causes serious illness in its victims. In cases of the elderly, very young children, or those already weakened by other causes, the disease may prove fatal. Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), and even fever. Anyone experiencing such problems following food consumption should not hesitate to seek emergency treatment.

The contaminated poultry was distributed by several grocery chains, including Costco, Foodmaxx, Safeway, and Kroger, in California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. Consumers should also check any Foster’s products in the Kroger subsidiaries (Ralph’s and Food 4 Less) as well as the Vons outlets owned by Safeway. Packaging of the salmonella-infected chicken bears the numbers P6137, P6137A, and P7632 on the labeling on the USDA inspection marks. These items were produced on March 8, 10, and 11 of this year.

So far, despite warnings issued by the government in the past, particularly last October, concerning the outbreaks of salmonella traced back to their company, why has Foster Farms been so stubborn when it comes to recalling these chicken parts? They have reacted in ways that appear downright hostile to anyone inquiring about their plants’ sanitation, safety procedures, etc. A response to a previous Examiner article about the problem insisted that, despite some premature announcements by various other sources of a recall, that was not the case:

"Please immediately retract your recent articles on Examiner.com related to Foster Farms. Please refer to the attached statement issued yesterday for more information. Foster Farms has not issued a recall.”

After this correction was published, the contact person from Foster’s immediately sent an email demanding that all information linking her to that company should be deleted. Somehow it seems this person did not want to be associated with that corporation—or was she simply covering herself in case the whole mess blew up even more?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the USDA and FSIS, ought to be capable of swinging a heavier stick at companies like Foster Farms that don’t care about their customers. Once any contaminated food is traced back to a specific location, all the samples of that product should be confiscated for inspection and the facilities should be shut at least until a thorough inspection has been conducted. Personnel involved should be questioned, examined for their own health conditions as the germs are frequently spread via human contact. Any possibility of unsanitary practices need to be addressed immediately in such situations. Sure, it will mean temporary halting of production, possible lay-offs for an undetermined length of time, and definitely monetary losses for the company. On the other hand, when human lives are disrupted by disease outbreaks, are they to be merely ignored? Even if the company involved cares nothing for the suffering of those afflicted, they may be interested in the eventual lawsuits, fines and loss of business contracts that could follow their lack of appropriate action. If money is the only thing that Foster Farms cares about, rather than the health and safety of their customers and employees, maybe massive court judgments against them will be a bigger influence.

For further information on this recall, see: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/recall-case-archive/archive/2014/recall-044-2014-release

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