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USDA closes Foster Farms plant over roach infestation

U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended operations at a Foster Farms poultry plant Wednesday because of a cockroach infestation.

The plant, which is located in Livingston, Calif., 25 miles southeast of Modesto, was one of three Foster Farms facilities linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 416 people nationwide since last March.

"Our inspectors wrote several noncompliance reports for insanitary conditions at the plant and then took the action to suspend today," Adam Tarr, a spokesman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said in an email Wednesday.

The Livingston plant, as well as two other processing facilities in Fresno, was threatened with closure last October because of unsanitary conditions.

That sparked a public relations offensive by the poultry producer, which vowed to clean up its facilities and introduce stringent new measures to reduce instances of salmonella contamination.

Once Foster Farms produced a new sanitation plan, U.S. officials allowed the plants to remain open.

Despite pressure to do so, federal inspectors could not force a recall of Foster Farms poultry because salmonella, unlike strains of E. coli, is considered naturally occurring and not an adulterant.

Foster Farms said Wednesday's shutdown would enable the company to mitigate the infestation.

"The plant treatment took place this afternoon and the company expects to fully resume operation once approved for inspection," Foster Farms said.

"Food safety is Foster Farms' highest priority and the company took action immediately upon learning of any concern. This is an isolated incident; no other company plants are affected. Today's treatment is expected to fully resolve this incident."

david.pierson@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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