Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) today issued a call for all Foster Farms poultry processing facilities to be shuttered until a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 600 people in 29 states is stopped. The Representatives also introduced legislation that would strengthen the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to recall meat, poultry, and egg products by clarifying the term "adulterated."

As Food Safety Magazine reported earlier today, USDA announced late last Thursday night that Foster Farms had issued a voluntary recall for its chicken products. This was the first recall Foster Farms has issued related to this outbreak, which has been going on for more than a year.

“Burying news late at night on a holiday weekend may be a time-honored tradition by Washington spin doctors, but it is a shameful way to protect public health,” DeLauro and Slaughter said in a statement. “We have been saying for months that tainted chicken does not belong on the grocery stores shelves or the dinner tables of American families. How many more people will fall ill, or even be hospitalized, before USDA does the right thing and cracks down on companies that threaten our families’ health and safety?”

The representatives' statement continued:

“USDA will claim they do not have the authority to either issue a mandatory recall or shut down Foster Farms. We disagree, but have introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act to ensure there is no confusion. This bill would allow USDA to prevent dangerous, antibiotic-resistant pathogens from ever getting to supermarkets in the first place. House leadership should take up this bill immediately before any more American consumers fall victim.”

The Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act would require USDA to recall any meat, poultry, or egg product contaminated by pathogens associated with serious illness or death, or that are resistant to two or more critically important antibiotics for human medicine.

Over the past year, an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms has sickened at least 621 Americans, hospitalizing almost 40% of those infected. Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics, a trait that is associated with increased hospitalization in infected individuals.

DeLauro is a former chairwoman of the Subcommittee that funds USDA and a longtime advocate for stronger food safety standards. Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, is the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would ban the routine overuse of eight critical classes of antibiotics on healthy food animals.

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