Foster Poultry Farms found negligent in child’s brain injury from Salmonella-caused infection
By Canadian Packaging staffFood Safety General food safety Foster Poultry Farms Salmonella Heidelberg United States Department of Agriculture USDA
Despite family’s improper cooking of the poultry that could have killed the Salmonella bacteria, Foster Farms held liable for 30 percent of the damages sought.
On March 1, 2018, after a five-and-a-half year-old child suffered a brain injury from a Salmonella Heidelberg infection from chicken produced by Foster Poultry Farms, an Arizona federal judge returned a verdict in the amount of $6.5 million in favor of the child.
This is a precedent-setting U.S. legal case involving food safety that says that even though the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) does not consider Salmonella to be an “adulterant” in raw chicken, and that consumers can kill the bacteria by properly cooking the poultry—chicken processors can still be accountable for Salmonella contamination.
Note again, that the USDA does allow for a percentage of salmonella to be present in raw chicken sold to the public.
A jury said that Foster Poultry Farms was 30 percent at fault, while the remaining 70 percent was caused by the family’s incorrect cooking of the chicken.
As such, it means that Foster Poultry Farms is responsible for $1.95 million in damages.
While the family of the child, Noah Craten, was unable to provide physical evidence that the child had consumed chicken from Foster Poultry Farms—no receipts or other such evidence—the fact that there was evidence of a larger scale Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak with some 639 people over 29 U.S. States contracting the illness between March 1,m 2013 – July 11, 2014, the jury easily connected the dots as to Craten’s cause of brain illness.
Foster Poultry Farms, while not happy with the precedent set at this trial, it did issue a statement noting its pleasure that the child had recovered from his illness.
It noted that the majority of the blame (70%) was laid at the hands of the family for not cooking the meat properly, and points out that the family’s shopping records presented at the trial, covering the six month period prior to the onset of illness, failed to demonstrate the purchase of Foster Farms chicken.
The company statements continues: “As well, Foster Farms has, since 2013, instituted a multi-hurdle Salmonella control program and is committed to a company-wide Salmonella prevalence level of 5 percent in whole body chickens and parts. This compares to the USDA permissible level of 9.8 percent for whole body chickens and 15.4 percent for parts.
“Foster Farms’ current food safety performance record is recognized as being among the best in the US poultry industry, and the company is committed to advancing food safety for the benefit of consumers, customers and the poultry industry.”