Group scrutinizes Foster Farms violations

NRDC pressures Foster Farms to disclose antibiotic use

Following a large salmonella outbreak from raw chicken that made national headlines, Foster Farms invested $75 million in a multi-step program designed to reduce salmonella at each stage of the production process. Yet, one advocacy group is putting pressure on the company to do more.

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Foster Farms has made progress in reducing salmonella to less than 5% from an industry average of 25% for raw poultry parts. As result of the progress, the CDC confirmed on July 31 the salmonella outbreak associated with raw chicken had ended.

“Foster Farms has implemented and continues to utilize multiple interventions to reduce Salmonella throughout its entire poultry production process,” stated the CDC. “This strategy includes interventions at the breeder level, at hatcheries, at grow-out farms, and at the processing plant where the final product is packaged. Supported by data from continuous testing by Foster Farms, these interventions have reduced Salmonella prevalence to less than five percent in the Foster Farms establishments linked to this outbreak. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined that process control measures undertaken by the firm to consistently minimize salmonella contamination of raw chicken have been successful.”

Still, a New York environmental advocacy group, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is concerned with the company’s continuous pattern of food safety violations.

NRDC posted multiple pages of FSIS violation from September 2013 through March 2014 – obtained through a Freedom of Information request- at the Foster Farms plants on its website.

The goal was to show the link of the violations to the large scale outbreak of salmonella strains that the group claims was antibiotic resistant.

NRDC actively campaigns to reduce antibiotic use in livestock and petitioned this week the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its July decision that the U.S. food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have to consider a ban on use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock.

In a prepared company statement, Foster Farms outlined its standards for responsible use of antibiotics.

“As with any food animal raised for consumption, the risk of disease cannot be fully eliminated. We believe there is a role for the judicious use of antibiotics in the treatment of flock illness should that be necessary, which helps ensure human health, animal health and animal welfare,” stated the company. “Foster Farms prioritizes antibiotics that are approved by the FDA for disease treatment and prevention in poultry.”

The company does not use growth promoting antibiotics and it administrates antibiotics, in accordance to veterinary consultation, to treat sick birds.  Furthermore, when antibiotics are administrated all recommended withdrawal times are followed prior to processing.

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