Concerns about a salmonella outbreak at a California chicken production plant could cause it to shut down. The incident raises questions about how federal agencies handle salmonella outbreaks.
The United States Department of Agriculture is threatening to close three California poultry factories if they do not meet health and safety standards by Thursday, according to a letter from the USDA.
The company was cited 12 times between Jan. 1 and Sept. 27, 2013, for having fecal material on poultry carcasses, according to a CDC report. Despite the government shutdown, which furloughed 68 percent of CDC workers, 30 of the centers' employees were called back to work on Wednesday to help with the investigation.
On the company website, Foster Farms wrote that it does not plan to issue a recall on its poultry products. The spread of salmonella, the company writes, can be eliminated by properly handling chicken.
Unlike E.coli, salmonella outbreaks do not automatically trigger a recall because cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill salmonella.
Groups such as Consumer Reports have been pushing the Agricultural Department to change the way salmonella outbreaks are handled so that the government can force recalls. The only recourse currently available to the government is to remove meat inspectors from a plant that does not meet production standards. But while this prevents more meat from being processed in a contaminated factory, it still leaves possibly infected products on the shelves.