The Agriculture Department says three California poultry processing facilities linked to a salmonella outbreak in raw chicken can stay open, for now.
In a statement Thursday, the USDA said Foster Farms, which owns the facilities, has made, quote, "immediate substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations."
The department threatened earlier this week to shut down the plants if Foster Farms did not prove that it had made enough changes. Sampling by the USDA in September showed that raw chicken processed by those facilities included strains of salmonella that were linked to the outbreak that has sickened 278 people in 17 states.
The department said government inspectors will monitor the company's improvements and sample Foster Farms meat for the next three months.
In light of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened 18 people locally in Los Angeles, L.A. County health officials reminded residents Thursday to fully cook poultry before serving it.
``Salmonella is common in poultry and undercooking always increases infection risk,'' county public health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding said. ``We need to be careful to always cook poultry to the proper internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. A meat and poultry thermometer is a cheap investment in peace of mind when you are cooking.''
According to the county Department of Public Health, 18 people in the county have been sickened during the salmonella outbreak that federal officials have blamed on a trio of Foster Farms poultry plants in California. Nine of the local patients required hospitalization, but there have been no deaths.
The potentially affected packages of raw Foster Farms chicken are marked with the batch numbers P6137, P6137A or P7632, according to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, along with chills, headache, nausea and vomiting.