416 sick from Salmonella: USDA closes Foster Farms plant over roach infestation

With 416 sick from Salmonella that has been going on for months, the feds finally decided to close a Foster Farms plant in California.

For cockroaches.

I told Beth Weise of USA Today, “It’s probably that USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) was getting bad PR so it needed a reason to shut them down. Cockroaches are never FunkyChickenHigood; but neither are 416 sick people.”

Finding roaches in a processing plant isn’t unexpected, said International Association for Food Protection president, Rutgers University food extension guru and beard aficionado Donald Schaffner, “The key question is how many other plants have this frequency of roach noncompliance and were not shut down?”

Federal inspectors on Wednesday suspended processing at a poultry plant in California found to have been infested with cockroaches four times over the last five months.

The on-going outbreak has sickened a total of 416 people in 23 states according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

However according to the letter sent to Foster Farms CEO Ron Foster on Wednesday, USDA Food Safety Inspection Service staff documented four cases of live cockroach contamination in the plant, on Sept. 14, Nov. 4, Dec. 28 and finally on Jan. 7. The letter was first reported by Lynne Terry of The Oregonian newspaper.

“These recent findings of egregious insanitary conditions related to a cockroach infestation in your facility indicate that your establishment is not being operated and maintained in sanitary condition,” the letter said.

In a statement provided by spokeswoman Karmina Zafiro, Foster Farms said it was first notified of the infestations on Jan. 8 and “closed the Livingston facility immediately for sanitization and treatment.”

No other Foster Farms facilities were affected, according to the statement. “No products are affected. Product production has been transferred to the company’s other facilities.”

Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler found it odd that USDA “has the power to shut a plant down when they found cockroaches but doesn’t have the power to shut them down when they poison hundreds of people with antibiotic-resistant salmonella.”

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time