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Press Room

FOSTER FARMS SAYS PREPAREDNESS IS KEY TO PREVENTING AI Stringent biosecurity measures in place to keep disease from infecting flocks

LIVINGSTON, Calif. – Comprehensive disease prevention practices established over the years are the most effective ways to prevent avian influenza from infecting commercial poultry, according to Foster Farms, the West Coast’s leading poultry producer. In light of recent reports from the World Health Organization, U.S. Health and Human Services and the United Nations that bird migrations in the spring will almost certainly result in discoveries of AI among wild birds in the Western Hemisphere, the company believes there is confusion among consumers about Avian Influenza’s potential impact on bird health, human health and on food safety. There has never been an identification of H5N1 AI anywhere in the US, and never at Foster Farms. Foster Farms, as the West’s leading poultry producer, is committed to doing everything responsible and necessary to prevent avian influenza from infecting its flocks and to help the public understand the measures it is taking.

“There is not an H5N1 AI virus known today anywhere in the world capable of causing a human pandemic,” said Dr. Charles Corsiglia, Manager of Health Services for Foster Farms. “With all of the current coverage of this issue and the anxiety it may be producing, it is important to remember that, at this time, Avian Influenza is a bird problem, not a people problem. A discovery of a wild bird with H5N1 in North America does not necessarily mean it will affect humans or our poultry flocks.

“Animals cannot get sick from a disease they are never exposed to. So the first step is to ensure that our flocks are protected from contact with outside sources or carriers.”

In some areas overseas, especially where there is a prevalence of traditional live markets and
village-based production systems, Avian Influenza has been devastating to poultry. In the U.S.,however, stringent industry disease prevention programs have been in place for many years. The Foster Farms program is based on isolation of poultry farms and tight control of the poultry growing environments within those farms; the vigilant monitoring, surveillance and testing of the company’s poultry flocks; traffic control and sanitation practices for all vehicles, equipment and personnel; and the most modern husbandry and veterinary health programs.

Extensive, timely and practiced quarantine and eradication planning for any health event that could threaten the flocks is also a part of the company’s biosecurity program. In the unlikely event that a flock is exposed to disease, Foster Farms would work with USDA, state agricultural officials and local animal health agencies to humanely destroy and dispose of any infected flock, and none of the birds would be allowed to enter the food chain.

“In accordance with our industry trade association, the National Chicken Council, we are now planning a two mile control zone circumference around any affected flock,” said Dr. Corsiglia, “and the flocks within that zone would be held and repeatedly tested to ensure they are clear of avian influenza before going to market.”

Foster Farms ranch facilities are located in relatively isolated rural areas without water ponds and are landscaped to be barren of vegetation that could attract animals or be inviting for wild birds to roost. Flocks are housed cage-free in completely enclosed ranches and do not have any access to outdoors or to other flocks. These ranch houses provide clean, running drinking water with a nippler drinking system to avoid contamination; nutritional feed; clean, soft bedding; as well as temperature controls, fans and air filtration. Feed mills, breeder facilities, hatcheries and processing plants are not co-located.

Vehicular and personnel access to each facility is kept at an absolute minimum. Visitors are prohibited, and only authorized vehicles on official business (feed trucks, poultry transports, veterinarians, etc.) are allowed to enter bio-secure areas.

All vehicles are washed and disinfected before and after entering the bio-secure grounds. A small number of employees, dedicated to each facility, are allowed to enter ranch houses and only if wearing bio-secure outerwear, sanitized boots and footwear, hats, gloves and hair nets. Proper disposal procedures eliminate the possibility of crossover through indirect contact by crews who could transport germs to another site. Visits to both the farm and the processing plant on the same day are not permitted.

Flocks are under continuous surveillance for any sign of disease, and each flock is tested prior to processing. Staff veterinarians employed by Foster Farms closely observe the health of all flocks and take immediate action to care for the health of our birds. Additionally, on-site USDA inspectors ensure that birds meet all food quality and safety expectations before and after processing.

“And while it is important to emphasize our stringent, preventative approach,” said Dr. Corsiglia, “we want to reiterate that transmission of the virus in cooked poultry products has never been shown to occur either experimentally or in the marketplace. Proper cooking and handling of poultry products is yet another safeguard for consumers.”

Summary from Dr. Charles Corsiglia of Foster Farms:

• There is not an H5N1 AI virus known today anywhere in the world capable of causing a human pandemic.

• There has never been an identification of H5N1 AI at Foster Farms or anywhere in the US.

• Foster Farms tests every flock for AI before processing.

• No flock with AI would get in the food supply even if AI appeared in the US.

• If AI was found in poultry in the US it would be quickly identified with routine surveillance:
    o Infected flocks would be isolated.
    o The birds would be humanely disposed of on the farm       and never processed for food.
    o The farm would be depopulated of all poultry.
    o Birds in the immediate quarantine zone would be tested for the disease.

Foster Farms is the leading poultry producer in the Western United States. Based in Livingston, Calif., the company has remained a family-owned business since its founding in 1939. Foster Farms branded fresh chicken is always locally grown on farms it owns or operates in each of its markets (California, Oregon and Washington). Foster Farms specializes in producing high quality fresh chicken products that are all natural with no preservatives or sodium-based additives, in addition to a full line of other delicious poultry products. The company produces and delivers premium quality poultry products to retailers, warehouse clubs and foodservice customers throughout the West.

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