Foster Farms Livingston plant suspension lifted


Foster Farms is not only the largest employer in Livingston, but also a key part of the region's economy. That's why mayor pro tem Gurpal Samra says he's relieved the plant is back open.

"Put it this way, if Foster Farms were to close, there would be no Livingston, and I think a good part of Merced County would also disappear."

About 3,500 people work at the plant and began losing money when the US Department Of Agriculture suspended operations Wednesday due to a cockroach infestation.

Samra added, "We have a lot of hardworking people in Livingston for them they're living paycheck to paycheck, and even losing 1 or 2 days of work is very difficult for them."

The closure also started taking an immediate toll on some nearby businesses that rely heavily on the workers, including Great America Gas and Food. Owner Jaspal Sahota estimates he normally serves about 150 Foster Farms employees a day. That number dropped to about 20 Thursday and Friday.

Great American Gas & Food Owner Jaspal Sahota said, "It's really difficult, we used to get a lot of customers before, now it's really quiet, very few customers."

The cockroach problem comes after a salmonella outbreak at Foster Farms facilities sickened hundreds of people in October. The CEO reported a 25 percent drop in profits that same month. But the company says it has implemented a series of new processes to monitor and further reduce the bacteria at all levels of production. Now it's also developed a corrective action plan to address the insect issue.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service released a statement Friday saying that plan addresses the agency's concerns and it will, "continue to monitor compliance with the plan, as well as the conditions at the plant."

Samra says despite the recent problems, he still has confidence in his hometown company.

"I will definitely buy the chicken," added Samra. "In fact this weekend we'll have Foster Farms chicken."

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