WASHINGTON » The Agriculture Department is threatening to shut down three California poultry processing facilities linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 278 people across the country.
USDA said today that Foster Farms, owner of the three facilities, has until Thursday to tell the department how it will fix the problem. The company was notified Monday.
Sampling by USDA in September showed that raw chicken processed by those facilities included strains of salmonella that were linked to the outbreak. But the company has not recalled any of its products.
A CDC map of the outbreak shows cases spread from Connecticut to Alaska, with one case in Hawaii.
The USDA has not directly linked the outbreak of illnesses to a specific product or production period. The USDA mark on suspect packages would read: P6137, P6137A and P7632.
State health officials were not planning a recall, but said it is essential that chicken be cooked to 165 degrees.
The Agriculture Department can halt production by withdrawing meat inspectors. In its letter to Foster Farms, USDA said the evidence suggests "the sanitary conditions in the establishment under which the product is produced could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health."
Outbreak map: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/map.html