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Dangerous product concern may shut down chicken processor

In a case that may be cautionary for Texas meat plants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is threatening to shutter three chicken processing plants run by Foster Farms in California. This was after salmonella allegedly made the chicken a dangerous product that sickened almost 300 people in 17 states. Foster Farms had reportedly not responded to a letter sent by USDA officials regarding high levels of the salmonella Heidelberg bacteria at the plants. The USDA said it would withhold inspections if Foster Farms did not respond by Oct. 10, which would effectively close the processing facilities.

USDA officials said that the prevalence of salmonella in finished poultry posed a risk to public health. Despite this, Foster Farm was reported to have failed to issue recalls of any of the potentially tainted products, mostly pieces of raw chicken, in three of the affected states. Company officials said they are giving government investigators their full cooperation. The company was not required by any regulation to recall tainted meat because unlike ground products, raw meat and poultry are not required to be free of salmonella, according to one food safety expert.

In addition to sounding a public health warning, the agriculture agency reserves the right to withdraw its meat inspectors. This enforcement action was possible when a facility did not maintain sanitary conditions, according to the Agriculture Department. About 42 percent of the people made sick by the contaminated chicken had to be hospitalized.

A defective product can be as dangerous as contaminated meat. Consumer death and injury may result. A Texas lawyer with a background in products liability may be able to help those affected by a dangerous product, defective industrial equipment or an automobile design defect.

Source: NBC News, "USDA threatens to shutter Foster Farms plants tied to salmonella outbreak", JoNel Aleccia, October 09, 2013

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