Dems rip USDA for ‘outrageous’ decision

Two liberal House Democrats are furious that food safety regulators are not shutting down three facilities at the center of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened people in 18 states.

On Thursday night, Foster Farms announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food safety office would not shutter the three California plants linked to the outbreak.

In a statement, the company’s president, Ron Foster, said that it was “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.”

Democratic Reps. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) aren’t as willing to accept the company’s assurances about its new controls.

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“It is outrageous that, having already not recalled any Foster Farms products, the Food Safety and Inspection Service is allowing the company to keep its plants open just days after detailing facility conditions that are clearly a threat to the public health,” DeLauro said in a statement on Friday.

Slaughter added that it was a “disgrace” that the facilities would be allowed to stay open.

“The USDA’s toothless decisions endangers public health today, and encourages bad actors in the food industry to continue to break the law tomorrow,” she said. “The American people need a regulatory agency that works for them and not the food industry.”

The two lawmakers have long been outspoken advocates of food safety and have pushed to reduce the amount of antibiotics fed to livestock and poultry meant for human consumption, which they say has led to an increase of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

So far, nearly 300 people have been made sick by the salmonella outbreak, and 40 percent of them are being hospitalized. That's double the normal rate, and a sign to the lawmakers that the germs are evolving.