Foster Farms, the nation’s sixth-biggest chicken producer, announced a voluntary recall of some chicken products July 3, 2014, as victims continue to be identified in a 16-month salmonella outbreak caused by poultry the company processed. The recall came a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its count of reported illnesses from the outbreak to 621 people in 29 states and Puerto Rico. That means more than 200 additional cases have been reported to CDC since December 2013. A previous salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken sickened a reported 134 people from June 2012 to April 2013.
The real issue here is the salmonella standards that the government sets. They’re wholly inadequate to protect public health.Sandra Eskin, director of Pew’s safe food project, as told to The Oregonian
Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said this ongoing outbreak underscores the need to change the approach to salmonella contamination in chicken taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, or FSIS. As Eskin told The Oregonian: “The real issue here is the salmonella standards that the government sets and how it monitors and enforces them. They’re wholly inadequate to protect public health.”
Pew analyzed FSIS’s response to both Foster Farms outbreaks in a report last year, highlighting numerous flaws in the agency’s food safety program. Pew recommended seven steps that would improve the agency’s efforts to protect consumers from salmonella contamination in poultry. The recommendations include issuing limits on salmonella contamination for chicken parts that include public health objectives and conducting unannounced testing for the pathogen. Read more about the needed improvements in FSIS’s approach.