News Feature | January 16, 2014

We Want Answers, Foster Farms!

Source: Food Online
Sam Lewis

By Sam Lewis

Health, environment, and animal welfare advocate groups want answers from the poultry company about antibiotic use and production practices

Coming on the heels of Foster Farms’ recent involvement in a nationwide-Salmonella outbreak, more than 30 advocate groups have asked Foster Farms to reveal information regarding its use of antibiotics in raising poultry.

The groups penned a letter to Foster Farms’ CEO Ron Foster asking the poultry manufacturer to only use antibiotics to treat diseases in poultry; not to accelerate animal growth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 people have become ill from Salmonella Heidelberg traced back to Foster Farms poultry. Some of the strains have been classified as antibiotic resistant. “Antibiotic resistance was a significant feature of this outbreak, yet Foster Farms has not disclosed information about its antibiotic use or plans for preventing the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria from Foster Farms’ products, waste streams, and facilities,” reads the letter.

The groups’ letter is asking Foster Farms to release an in-depth account of the antibiotics it uses for poultry operations. The letter also asks the company to commit to using antibiotics responsibly, and have its new practices verified by third-party audits. “Foster Farms can help regain its credibility by telling the public how its birds are raised and the specific steps the company is taking to prevent the spread of drug resistant bacteria,” the letter says. “By demonstrating antibiotic stewardship, your company will also show your progress in promoting healthy flocks that don't need routine antibiotic use.”

Foster Farms has not yet released a public statement regarding the letter, but the following can be found on the company’s website. “Foster Farms has always prioritized the care and well-being of its birds and does not use antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion. Any antibiotics used by Foster Farms for treatment are approved by the USDA and FDA for use in poultry and are prescribed by and monitored under the supervision of a veterinarian.”

The privately owned company is experiencing the financial backlash of the Salmonella outbreak, having lost nearly 25 percent of its sales. In addition, Mexico has stopped importing Foster Farms’ chicken products from the three California facilities linked to the outbreak. One of the three plants, located in Livingston, CA, was shut down on Wednesday, Jan 8 due to a cockroach infestation. The facility reopened on Saturday, Jan 11, only to “voluntarily and temporarily” shut down on Sunday, promising to reopen after self-imposed corrective actions have been taken. The plant has yet to reopen.

Want to publish your opinion?
Contact us to become part of our Editorial Community.