Foster Farms, whose raw chicken products were identified as the source of a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections last fall, had to cease operations at its Livingston, CA poultry processing plant yesterday (Jan. 8) due to a cockroach infestation.

The Los Angeles Times reported that officials U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials suspended operations at the plant, quoting Adam Tarr, a spokesperson for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as saying in a Jan. 8 e-mail, "Our inspectors wrote several noncompliance reports for insanitary conditions at the plant and then took the action to suspend today."

However, a statement on Foster Farms' website described the situation this way:

"This morning, a cockroach was observed during plant operations at the company's Livingston, CA., plant and the company was notified of four similar incidents since September 2013 in FSIS correspondence today. FSIS maintains a zero tolerance policy and Foster Farms closed the Livingston facility immediately for sanitization and treatment. The company completed the treatment today and will review its program with the FSIS for full approval. This is an isolated incident; no other facilities are affected. Today's treatment is expected to fully resolve this incident.

"Each day, FSIS inspectors must approve each facility prior to beginning operation. Since September of 2013, FSIS [has] identified a total of five cockroaches in our 250,000-square-foot Livingston plant. The company [has] aggressively addressed each instance to the full satisfaction of the FSIS. A single incident is not acceptable, and we are committed to a zero tolerance policy."

The Los Angeles Times article pointed out that the Livingston plant is one of three Foster Farms facilities linked to the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak that sickened at least 416 people in several states from March through December of last year. In its statement, the company discussed its progress in combatting Salmonella:

"Foster Farms is working in cooperation with the USDA-FSIS to monitor and further reduce Salmonella levels at all stages of production. A series of new, multi-step processes for Salmonella control have been developed by the company with the input of national food safety experts. The company is leading a specialized U.S. poultry industry working group dedicated to further reducing Salmonella during the second stage of processing. Foster Farms has formed a Food Safety Advisory Board comprised of leading national food safety experts to validate best practices, evaluate emerging technologies and to help guide the company's food safety systems on an ongoing basis."