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USDA Closes Foster Farms Plant; Health Alert Issued but No Recall

A Foster Farms poultry plant was shuttered by the USDA on Wednesday citing a cockroach infestation and unsanitary conditions.

The plant was one of three other Foster Farms facilities that were threatened with closure for being linked to nationwide salmonella outbreaks, reports the Los Angeles Times.

What is the USDA doing to stop dangerous chicken from hitting the market?

Foster Farms Plant Shut Down For Roaches

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials had warned Foster Farms to remedy the conditions at two processing facilities in Fresno and one poultry plant in Livingston, California, reports the Times.

These conditions were a major cause for concern for the USDA -- and anyone who consumes poultry -- as improper sanitation and contamination can mean illness or death from salmonella.

The three facilities managed to remain open once Foster Farms unveiled a sanitation plan, but this didn't stop federal inspectors from finding roaches in the Livingston poultry plant.

In a letter to Foster Farms' CEO, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service cited "five occasions between Sept. 14 and Wednesday" when FSIS inspectors found roaches in the plant, reports The Fresno Bee.

Since the plant was essentially shirking its promise to clean up its act, the FSIS temporarily shut it down.

Why a Health Warning but No Recall?

Despite have suspended operations at the Livingston plant, the USDA has not issued a recall on Foster Farms poultry products.

While it is not uncommon for chicken products to be recalled when they are found to be contaminated with some harmful microbe, salmonella is considered naturally occurring in all poultry products. So when Foster Farms chicken was linked to salmonella outbreaks in October, federal inspectors could not force a recall because the questionable meat was not "adulterated."

Federal courts have ruled that the presence of salmonella in meat from cattle and certain other animals requires a recall under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. But because poultry is not covered by the Act, the USDA only issued a "health alert" about Foster Farms chicken.

The USDA's health alert, which was actually released on October 7, reminds poultry purchasers to cook chicken to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees in order to kill food-borne pathogens like salmonella. It also identified the "establishment numbers" of the three possibly infested Foster Farms facilities.

According to the Times, Foster Farms reported the Livingston plant was treated on Wednesday, and "is expected to fully resolve this incident."

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