Mexico has blocked imports of Foster Farms chicken from three central California processing facilities linked to an outbreak of salmonella.
The Mexican government told the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday it was removing from its list of approved exporters two Foster Farms plants in Fresno and one in Livingston, where the poultry company is headquartered.
The three plants were identified by the USDA as the likely origins of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 338 people across the U.S. since March.
Despite intensifying demands for a recall, the USDA allowed the plants to remain open after Foster Farms developed new protocols to reduce rates of contamination.
Federal inspectors and Foster Farms have maintained that poultry from the processing sites are safe to eat if handled properly and cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The strain of salmonella involved in the outbreak, known as Salmonella Heidelberg, has proved especially virulent and resistant to some antibiotics. That’s one of reasons the outbreak’s hospitalization rate is double a normal salmonella scare.
The ban, which was initially reported by the Oregonian of Portland, is believed to be the first time Mexico has blocked American imports because of a health alert.
America’s southern neighbor imposed anti-dumping duties on U.S. chicken leg quarters last year, but has yet to implement the ruling because of poultry shortages brought on by avian flu.
Mexico is the top destination for U.S. poultry exports, though Foster Farms relies overwhelmingly on domestic sales to drive its annual revenue of $2.3 billion.
In an interview last week, Foster Farms President Ron Foster said sales had fallen 25% since the USDA announced its health alert on Oct. 7.
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