Two members of Congress are pushing agriculture regulators to close Foster Farms poultry plants until a salmonella outbreak has been contained. Foster Farms, which is a California based chicken poultry company, has been under fire from the public as well as regulators over its sales of chicken that contained salmonella.

Since March of 2013, chicken distributed by Foster Farms has been linked to a particular strain of salmonella called Salmonella Heidelberg. Salmonella Heidelberg has sickened at least 621 people in 29 states. However, because most cases of salmonella go unreported, it’s estimated that perhaps as many as 17,000 people have been sickened by the chicken. Almost 40 percent of the people who became ill with Salmonella Heidelberg have been hospitalized, and 13 percent have developed bloodstream infections. This particular strain of salmonella is drug-resistant, which makes it hard to treat.

Although Foster Farms, as well as the USDA, have known about the problem with the chicken for some time, up until now the company has refused to issue a recall, and the federal government could not compel a recall because there was no proof that the outbreak was linked to their chicken. Earlier this year, a 10 year old boy ate the chicken and became extremely ill. Experts were finally able to link the Foster Farms chicken he consumed to his illness. The USDA and Foster Farms wrangled over the scope of the recall, and Foster Farms finally agreed to recall chicken produced for only three days in March.

Unfortunately, the USDA currently lacks the mandatory recall authority for salmonella, although it has it for E. coli. It can ask a company to pull its tainted products that cause salmonella, but many companies, including Foster Farms, will deny and decline to recall. Foster Farms claims that it has changed its practices, but one of its plants in Livingston was closed by the USDA because of a cockroach infestation and other unsanitary conditions.

Foster Farms chicken is continuing to sicken consumers at the rate of one per day, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 468 of the salmonella cases from Foster Farms occurred in California. Because federal officials lack the authority to issue a mandatory recall or to shut down the plants, many consumers may continue to be sickened by eating the tainted food.

In addition to the push by members of Congress to close Foster Farms, there has also been legislation introduced that would require food recalls during salmonella outbreaks. The bill would require the USDA to recall any meat, poultry or egg product contaminated by pathogens that can cause serious illness or death. Fortunately, no one has died from this latest outbreak. Salmonella typically causes extreme discomfort but no lasting health effects in most people, although the very young, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems could be at risk for more serious health effects.

This story illustrates the reluctance of many companies to recall products, even after it’s been shown their product is dangerous and has harmed consumers. Instead, many companies will try to cover up the problems, deny there’s an issue when pressed, and do everything possible to avoid a recall. Recalls are expensive and can hurt a company’s image.

If you have been harmed by a defective consumer product, including food, a vehicle, or a children’s product, it’s important that you call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that companies that make millions and even billions in profits from their merchandise should be required to pay damages when those products hurt consumers.

Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 if you have been injured by a defective product. She will be happy to provide you with a free consultation on your case. Call today to learn more.

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