Feces, Mold, and Cockroaches Found in Foster Farms Plants Across the Nation
After 621 people were sickened in 29 states in an outbreak that lasted nearly a year and a half, Foster Farms finally recalled its salmonella-tainted products in July. But a report released this week might keep consumers wary of California’s largest chicken producer.
The Natural Resources Defense Council on its website published 300 pages of USDA documents detailing health and safety violations at Foster Farm facilities across the country.
“The inspection reports include descriptions of mold growth, cockroaches, an instance of pooling caused by a skin-clogged floor drain, fecal matter, and ‘Unidentified Foreign Material’ (which has its own acronym, UFM) on chicken carcasses, failure to implement required tests and sampling, metal pieces found in carcasses, and many more,” the NRDC said in a statement.
The USDA’s ramped-up efforts to monitor two Foster Farms facilities in California linked to the salmonella outbreak did little, according to the report. Fecal contamination stayed at almost the same rate.
In response, Ira Brill, Foster Farms’ communications manager, told ABC30 on Friday that the company has changed its procedures since then, adding that $75 million has been spent on improvements. (Foster Farms granted the local news station an interview, but it wasn’t allowed inside due to a “biosecurity hazard.”)
“In many cases we went into ranches and refurbished them,” Brill told ABC30. “On the lines we added additional sanitation controls. And it becomes a very expensive process. We think consumers deserve that, and they should be able to buy chicken they can have confidence in.”
Foster Farms now boasts a 5 percent salmonella rate, far lower than the 25 percent industry average.
The NRDC is still skeptical. Jonathan Kaplan, who heads the group’s food and agriculture program, said that Foster Farms is unclear about its use of antibiotics. (Recently, Perdue announced that 95 percent of its chickens would no longer be treated with drugs.)
“My position is that Foster Farms, having sickened a lot of people and spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria all over the country, now really has an obligation to be responsible and to demonstrate what they’re doing to ensure it’s not going to happen again,” Kaplan told Salon. “And we’re not seeing that.”