USDA Threatens To Shut Down Foster Farms Plants Over Salmonella Outbreak

Clean up or we'll shut you down is the message the USDA is sending to three "Foster Farms" facilities linked to a salmonella outbreak. Two of the chicken processing plants are in Fresno.

In a letter to "Foster Farms" the USDA says evidence suggests..."The sanitary conditions in the establishment under which the product is produced could pose a serious threat to public health."

The USDA adds that 2 plants in Fresno and one in Livingston will be shut down Thursday unless "Foster Farms" tells the department how they'll fix the problem. Government inspectors were inside the plants Wednesday.

278 people in 17 states have gotten sick from the strain known as Salmonella- Heidelberg.

5 of those cases are in Fresno County.

"The first case was in March and we've had some follow up cases in June and July, but we haven't seen any recently," says Joe Prado, Division Manager of Community Health for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

The USDA says chicken with the products codes, p6137, p6137a, and p7632, could have been contaminated. There is not a recall, the USDA says it's because getting sick from Salmonella-Heidelberg can be prevented by cooking your chicken properly to 165-degrees.

However, some are wondering if the government shutdown is making the outbreak worse. The USDA website is closed and the CDC website has limited information. However, the Fresno County Department of Public Health says it's still able to get information out.

"Both the state and the federal agencies have been responsive in addressing this situation," says Glenn Allen, Interim Director of Environmental Health for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

"Foster Farms" sent KMPH this statement, "I want to reassure you that we are taking every possible step to ensure the current and future safety of our chicken products. I am deeply sorry for any illness associated with foster farms chicken and for any concern or confusion caused by this week's activity."

The statement goes on to say that "Foster Farms" is working with the USDA. The company adds it's already put in new practices at the three facilities.