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Foster Farms closes Livingston plant, again
foster farms
The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 opened an investigation into Foster Poultry Farms after COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at the worksite. - photo by Journal file photo



After being approved to reopen by the United States Department of Agriculture following a cockroach infestation last week,  Foster Farms has voluntarily suspended poultry processing at its Livingston plant to expand USDA-approved manufacturing procedures.

“The company is exercising vigilance and choosing to dedicate additional time to ensuring its preventative plan is fully realized with the most effective technology and treatments available,” stated Foster Farms in a press release on Sunday. 

The voluntary closure was precipitated by an enforced suspension by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Services on Jan. 8, after inspectors found cockroaches on five different occasions since September.  Each time the company was cited for noncompliance as the cockroaches were found during production near a sink, sanitizer dispenser, on the floor and on a “grey plastic tub that is a direct product contact surface.”

The pests are cause for concern due to the possibility that they could harbor food borne pathogens from contact with garbage, which could contaminate product, according to the USDA. Foster Farms worked to eradicate the cockroaches by performing sanitization treatments.  Last week, the company stated that no other plants were affected by the cockroach infestation and no products were affected.

The notice of suspension required the company to submit a written corrective plan in accordance with the Poultry Products Inspection Act that demonstrates that products will be produced in sanitary conditions by addressing causes of past infestations and prevention plans for the future.

 Foster Farms received approval of its plan and sanitation and treatment measures from the USDA on Friday, which allowed the company to resume production on Saturday. On Sunday, Foster Farms decided to indefinitely suspend operations. Although no product, packaging or line was affected at the Livingston plant, production has been redirected to two other Central Valley plants.

“Foster Farms expects this closure to be brief, lasting several days, but does not at this time have a definitive date for resuming operations,” the company stated.

 Maintenance employees at the Livingston plant will remain working but all other plant employees were laid off until full operations resume. 

Just three months prior to the USDA suspension, Foster Farms faced another potential closure when a rare strain of Salmonella Heidelberg was traced to the same Livingston plant as well as two Fresno facilities. As of October, the Salmonella outbreak affected 278 people in 17 states and has risen to 416 cases in 23 states as of January.