by Dan Charles, The Salt at NPR Food (7/9/14)
Foster Farms, a chicken producer in California, just can't seem to stop bleeding bad news.
On July 3, it recalled several batches of chicken products because a chicken breast from one of those batches is blamed for poisoning someone with salmonella bacteria. The recall came on top of an outbreak of salmonella that's been going on since October 2013. Some of the 621 cases reported in 29 states and Puerto Rico have been linked to Foster Farms chicken products. And let's not forget last fall, when U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety officials threatened to shut down a Foster Farms processing plant in Fresno, Calif., because of salmonella contamination.
But here's the paradox: Foster Farms may now be one of the country's cleanest, safest sources of chicken products. That's according to the USDA, which has been testing chicken parts that are processed at Foster Farms plants.
After the USDA threatened to shut down the plants in October, the company called in food safety experts and set up new procedures to eliminate salmonella contamination. It's made a difference, the government says. At Foster Farms plants, fewer than 5 percent of chicken parts test positive for salmonella. At other companies, it's typically about 20 percent.