Chicken Plant Draws Ire Of Advocacy Groups, Shutters For Second Time In One Week

Chicken processing company Foster Farms is not having a good year. Just two days after the U.S. Department of Agriculture lifted last week’s suspension for a cockroach infestation, Foster voluntarily shut down operations at its Livingston, CA, plant Sunday, while continuing to come under fire from consumer advocates.

The company said Sunday’s closure, which continues today, was to “expand its USDA-approved safe manufacturing procedures and monitoring systems.” The move will fix the company’s problems, right? Not so much.

The voluntary closure will likely be of interest to the more than 30 advocacy groups for health, environment, animal welfare and consumer protection who issued a letter Monday, asking Foster Farms to come clean on their use of antibiotics and to promise to discontinue routine, non-medical use of drugs to raise chickens.

The letter follows the Centers for Disease Control’s finding that Foster Farms was likely responsible for an antibiotic resistant strain of salmonella first reported in October 2013.  The on-going outbreak has so far sickened more than 400 people in 23 states.

The advocacy groups, including Consumerist cohorts Consumers Union, sent the letter asking Foster Farms to comply with three requests:

  • Publish a detailed description of the antibiotics used to raise chickens.
  • Commit to using antibiotics responsibly. Implementing improved living conditions and other good management practices can reduce or eliminate the need for such antibiotics in the chicken facility, the letter suggests.
  • Verify progress through audits by an impartial third party.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports Foster Farms has not responded to the letter at press time.

According to the NRDC, during the investigation into the outbreak four of the five Foster Farms chicken samples collected in California contained Salmonella resistant to one or more antibiotics.

Although the extent of antibiotic use at Foster Farms isn’t currently available, many facilities use antibiotics to speed animal growth and help animals survive stressful feedlot conditions.

Foster Farms plant shuttered a day after reopening [Los Angeles Times]