Foster Farms has invested $75m to reduce Salmonella in chicken parts as it battles an outbreak linked to its products that has sickened almost 600 people.
Citing what the firm said was ’most recent 10-week data’ shared with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed a Salmonella parts level of 2%, compared to the industry benchmark of 25% reported by the USDA in 2011/2012.
The latest information from the CDC as of May 22 said that 574 cases infected with seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg had been counted from 27 states from March 2013.
“We’ve achieved these results by taking a multi-hurdle approach that attacks Salmonella wherever it can present itself – at the breeder level, on the farm and in the plant,” said Dr Robert O’Connor, senior vice president technical services at Foster Farms.
“We are actively sharing what we have learned with government officials, the industry and retailers in the interest of helping to create a safer food supply across the nation.”
37% of ill persons have been hospitalized, with no deaths have been reported, and the state with the most ill people is California (77%).
Since the last update on April 9 , 50 ill people have been reported from eight states, said the CDC.
Ill persons range in age from less than 1 to 93, with a median age of 18 and 51% are male.
The announcement came on the 75th Anniversary of the family-owned company which took the opportunity to report on its food safety progress.
David Acheson, former chief medical officer of the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service and associate commissioner for foods at FDA, gave his view on the progress.
“I have worked with many companies on food safety issues and it is always gratifying to work with a company like Foster Farms that is willing to devote the time and resources to becoming a world leader in food safety.”
Acheson has advised Foster Farms as a paid member of its Food Safety Advisory Board.
Foster Farms said that since October 2013, it has developed a multiple-hurdle approach to reduce or eliminate Salmonella at each stage of production.
From screening breeder flocks before entering the system, to enhancing procedures on the farms where birds are raised, to adding sanitation interventions in the plants where the chicken is processed as a whole bird and when it is cut into parts.
US Senator Dianne Feinstein D-Calif, US Representatives Jim Costa D-Calif and David Valadao R-Calif, and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross joined Foster Farms President and CEO Ron Foster at the event.
Foster Farms was also linked to an outbreak that sickened 134 people from 4 June 2012 to 16 April 2013 across 13 states.