LIVINGSTON, Calif., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. government suspended operations of a Foster Farms poultry plant in California for an alleged infestation of live cockroaches, officials say.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said its Food Safety and Inspection Service cited Foster Farms' largest poultry processing plant in Livingston, Calif., repeatedly for live cockroaches. Today cockroaches were observed at a sink across from a processing line, with "exposed product" on the slaughterhouse floor, the suspension notice said, The Oregonian reported.
Tuesday, live cockroaches were on a plastic tub that came into contact with chicken, the notice said. Inspectors also cited the plant for non-compliance on Dec. 28, Nov. 4 and Sept. 14 after roaches were observed during production, the USDA said.
"These recent findings of egregious insanitary conditions related to a cockroach infestation in your facility indicate that your establishment is not being operated and maintained in sanitary condition, or in a manner to ensure that product is not adulterated," the suspension notice said.
"Poorly maintained facilities and equipment that are not maintained to prevent entrance of pests, such as cockroaches, rats and flies, can and do harbor food borne pathogens, which can then multiply and be dispersed throughout the food processing environment, increasing the chances of product contamination rendering the product unsafe."
Foster Farms issued a statement that said it treated the plant in response to the suspension.
"The company expects to fully resume operation once approved for inspection by FSIS," the Foster Farms statement said. "Food safety is Foster Farms' highest priority and the company took action immediately upon learning of any concern. This is an isolated incident; no other company plants are affected. Today's treatment is expected to fully resolve this incident."
The USDA is currently investigating three Foster Farms plants in California, including the suspended one in Livingston, over a Salmonella outbreak that's sickened more than 416 people in 23 states last spring.
Cockroaches, which live in unsanitary places such as sewers and bathrooms, can carry viruses and bacteria, including Salmonella. However, it is unclear if the cockroach infestation at the Livingston plant caused the outbreak, USDA officials said.