(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Foster Farms may be forced to close three California processing plants in the wake of a salmonella outbreak linked to its poultry that has sickened at least 278 people across 17 states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a warning, but not a recall; Foster Farms blames the sicknesses on undercooked or improperly handled chicken. About 30 furloughed employees from the Centers for Disease and Control were called back to work to handle the investigation. We discuss the issue.

Guests:
Dr. Michael K. Hansen, senior scientist at Consumer's Union, a nonprofit publisher of consumer reports
Maurice Pitesky, veterinarian and poultry advisor for the UC Davis Cooperative Extension

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Can any large meat processing plant ever be that clean?
    Am also curious knowing that the chickens are dipped in vats of water that have feces and lord knows what else, how often is that water changed?
    And why are we told not to wash store bought chicken before cooking?

    • Sally Fox

      I bring my sheep to Superior Farms in Dixon. It is the humane and USDA certified plant in N CA that we all use (Neiman Ranch, most all of the local, pastured, humane lamb and goat go through this plant). It is really quite impressively clean, and quiet and respectful of the animals. The USDA guy there is completely humorless. He allows nothing to go on that is not proper. Temple Grandin advised them, as she has many of the USDA facilities these days. In her latest book she laments the problems with poultry, both their production and their slaughter – she feels all aspects require so much improvement. We have a long way to go with poultry. Leaders in our area such as Mary’s and the numerous pastured chicken operations for production, shed light on the matter. It is time for the larger producers to get on board.

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        Have you heard of Parther Ranch up near Mt Shasta? They are humane slaughter and only do it on Tuesdays and its like the design that Dr Grandin created. Its so quiet, that is how humane and calm the animal the whole time.
        We raise our own hens as do most of our friends and on dispatching day everything is so clean and orderly. NO large vats of water, only running cold water.
        Thank you Sally Fox for the information. Am passing it on to friends who raise grass fed beef, but have been going down to a place near Fresno or over to NV.

      • Another Mike

        Since Superior Farms became the only source in the supermarkets, for us, lamb is a luxury, as is Mary’s chicken.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    The industry apologist is giving people very slanted info. Any antibiotic resistance in a bug is going to make treating people who get that bug more difficult as a practical matter. There will always be people with compromised immune systems, people with allergies to particular types of antibiotics, and people with prescriptions medicine interferences which reduce the particular types of antibiotics they can take. Of course this makes treatment more difficult, in the actual clinical setting.

    Why in the world this person wants to just wait around, get more info, blah blah blah while a *potentially* (as in, we do not know) more problematic bug is out there – is beyond me. I’d rather remove the possible contaminant from the food stream, as i believe that human health is more important than corporate profit.

    But that’s just little old-fashioned me. steph

  • Another Mike

    I quit eating Tyson years ago, when a chicken I bought was rotten when I got it home. Eating Foster Farms chicken, at least twice a week, for the last 28 years, I have never had a problem. The chicken is always delicious.

    We have always used a separate cutting board for chicken, and we always wash the countertop down afterwards as well as the sink. We simmer chicken till it’s cooked, or stirfry slices, or grill till the internal temp is 165.

    • Another Mike

      I think as long as chickens are birds, we’re going to have problems with their feces getting all over everything.

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        A properly slaughterd chicken should NOT have any intestinal area exposed to the meat. In fact using running water to clean rather than dipping bins you do not have that problem.

        • Another Mike

          Birds poop constantly, sticky semiliquid poop.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Really, i am just getting more and more grossed out. I’ll simply quote Marion Nestle, Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, who says: “Irradiated poop is still poop!” And grilled, stir fried, roasted, poop is poop too! People want to buy chicken to eat – not fertilizer.

    Yuck. steph

  • Romulus

    When I tuned in and they were talking about animals covered in feces, I just assumed they were talking about Congress

  • Sally Fox

    I was very disappointed with this program. The host Judy Campbell seemed to grant the UC Ag Extension Vet far more time than she gave to Dr Michael Hansen. I question anyone who thinks that feeding antibiotics to livestock prophylactically is humane. It is not only a way to render antibiotics useless for the rest of us, but their sole purpose is to allow CAFO’s to exist. Without them the animals would require more space and less concentrated foods such as grains. Usually I find Forum to be a place to hear a balanced conversation, or a lively debate. This show did not provide that. It sounded to me as though Forum was advocating that we just go along with the industrial vet’s views and just make sure to not wash our chickens (who doe not wash the chicken out of a plastic bag full of goo?- clearly a nutty recommendation that less than 10% of people follow- and born from the industry allowing too much salmonella to be present on poultry in the first place) and overcook it. Cleanliness in the plants be damned. A surprisingly biased and odd show.

    • Another Mike

      Dr. Hansen is CU’s multipurpose bio expert, starting with pest control, and moving into genetically modified foods and food safety, while Dr. Pitesky’s background is in poultry and their diseases, and salmonella in eggs.

      • Sally Fox

        The problem with this is that these extension people and the vet’s in the ag industry of course defend their ideas that CAFO’s are a safe and reasonable way to turn grain into meat the most efficient way. The fact that the animals live a tortured life in the process, requiring voters to come up with propositions and laws to protect them from this misery rather than these very vets standing up for the animals speaks volumes. Thye seem to have embraced the ridiculous and outdated idea that animals have no feelings, or are not entitled to them. I am a scientist myself and I produce sheep for wool and meat organically. The quality of the animal’s life is vital to me and my customers. Professionals who hide behind the cloak of science to assure people that keeping animals in confined situations is OK, or efficient or humane is absolutely wrong. Dr Hansen should not have been marginalized, which is how he sounded to me.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Michael Krasny would have asked better questions in my view.

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