Over 300 people have fallen ill from salmonella poisoning linked to Foster Farms chicken

Over 300 people have fallen ill from salmonella poisoning linked to Foster Farms chicken

The three Foster Farms plants linked to an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened over 300 people in the US will remain open after the processor's controls satisfied regulators.

Foster Farms has said the sites, all in California, were reviewed on Thursday (10 October) by officials from the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, who "validated" a safety plan recently put in place by the company.

The processor said it had implemented "several new food safety controls" in the last two months and would install "added processes" over the next 90 days.

"We started this process more than two months ago and this officially validates our progress, but we are not stopping here," Foster Farms president and CEO Ron Foster said. "We are putting every resource and all of our energy toward food safety with the confidence that Foster Farms plants will be the most stringent in the industry."

In an update issued on Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico had fallen ill from seven strains of salmonella heidelberg. The strains are resistant to "several commonly prescribed antibiotics", the CDC said.

According to the CDC, consumers had become ill between March and September. Illnesses that occurred after 1 September may not have been reported yet, it said.

The CDC said tests had shown Foster Farms brand chicken was the "likely source" of the outbreak. It added Fosters Farms' moves to implement "immediate substantive changes" to their slaughter and processing operations had meant its plants could stay open.

"This investigation is ongoing. USDA-FSIS is prepared to take additional actions or expand the investigation based on new evidence," the CDC said.

Last week, consumer watchdog The Center for Science in the Public Interest, reflecting on the outbreak, said the shutdown of the US federal government is putting the country's citizens "at risk".

"This outbreak shows that is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs, and for government websites to go dark. The salmonella strains are showing resistance to multiple antibiotics, and that means more people are going to the hospital and their infections will be harder for physicians to treat," CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal said.

"This outbreak is further evidence that consumers need our government back at work, with food-safety agencies adequately funded."