Federal regulators ordered Murray's Chicken to cease processing at its South Fallsburg poultry plant as the company disputed government concerns about food safety.
Steve Gold, Murray's VP of sales and marketing, said the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service allowed the company to ship chicken packaged Monday but ordered it otherwise closed until it corrects "facility issues".
"It has nothing to do with the food safety of the product," said Gold. "We're doing everything we can to make sure our employees get back to work."
Neither Gold nor Brian Mabry, an FSIS spokesman, would identify the specific issues underlying the shutdown. But Mabry said FSIS' concerns are directly related to food safety.
The agency sent Murray's a written warning in January concerning "salmonella controls," he said. The concerns centered on Murray's ability to identify and minimize contamination by pathogens such as salmonella, said Mabry.
The written warning was followed by a notice in April about sanitation concerns and noncompliance with FSIS regulations, said Mabry. FSIS issued another notice Monday telling Murray to suspend operations.
"While FSIS is sympathetic to the economic implications of the suspension, our primary concern is to fulfill our regulatory responsibility to protect the public health," said Mabry.
Gold said he was not aware of any FSIS issues with food contamination. The company frequently tests on its own and just passed a USDA test for salmonella on July 23, he said.
Murray's has spent hundreds of thousand of dollars addressing ongoing FSIS complaints about its aging plant, said Gold. Because of that effort, owner Murray Bresky and company officials were shocked when they received the shutdown notice, he said.
Murray's 350 employees process about 35,000 chickens a day at the South Fallsburg plant.
Source: Times Herlad-Record