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Three Foster Farms poultry plants in California will remain open after the firm agreed to fix problems tied to an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened nearly 300 people in 17 states since March, federal agriculture officials said Thursday.
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said inspectors will remain onsite at two plants in Fresno and one in Livingston, Calif., allowing the firm to operate, but continuing intensified sampling for illness-causing bacteria for three months.
"Foster Farms has submitted and implemented immediate, substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations," Aaron Lavallee, a spokesman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement. "FSIS inspectors will verify that these changes are being implemented in a continuous and ongoing basis."
The move follows a public health alert and a threat to close the plants after inspectors detected high levels of seven strains of salmonella Heidelberg bacteria tied to reports of 278 illnesses in 17 states, mostly California.
About 42 percent of people sickened in the outbreak have been hospitalized, twice as many as normal with salmonella infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the strains of salmonella Heidelberg showed signs of drug resistance, and some of the people who became ill found they couldn't be treated with some antibiotics.