May 30, 2014

Foster Farms lawsuit blames exterminator for cockroaches

Foster Farms is suing Orkin LLC, charging that pest control company was to blame for cockroaches tied to salmonella-contaminated chicken at the Livingston poultry facility.

Foster Farms is suing Orkin LLC, charging the pest control company was to blame for cockroaches that resulted in a three-day shutdown of its Livingston poultry facility in January.

The lawsuit, filed late last month in Merced Superior Court, claims Orkin should pay damages for failing to fulfill a contract to control cockroaches at the processing plant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended operations at the Foster Farms plant because roaches were found on four occasions.

Orkin and a subsidiary, Orkin Services of California, are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Orkin filed a motion Wednesday seeking to move the case to the federal court in Fresno.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly has tied 574 cases of salmonella illness to raw chicken from the Foster Farms plant in Livingston and two smaller plants in Fresno. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service notified Foster Farms last fall that the presence of cockroaches was a sign of unsanitary conditions at the plant.

The Mayer Brown law firm of Southern California filed the April 29 lawsuit on behalf of Foster Poultry Farms. An attorney with the firm said the company had no comment on the case. Rollins Inc., the Atlanta-based parent company of Orkin, did not return messages Friday.

According to the lawsuit, Orkin entered a contract with Foster Farms in May 2013 to control pests at the Livingston facility. The poultry producer claims the exterminators did substandard work.

The lawsuit alleges Orkin did not cooperate with Foster Farms and the USDA to deal with the infestation. It also says Orkin failed to provide six-days-a-week service promised in the contract, instead often coming only three days a week.

After the three-day shutdown in January, Foster Farms had to hire another business to tent and fog the huge processing facility, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and resulting in a second shutdown, the lawsuit says. Foster Farms is seeking unspecified dollar amounts from Orkin for lost profits, property damage, business disruptions and fumigation costs.

National and international news reports on the three-day plant shutdown harmed Foster Farms’ reputation, the lawsuit suggests.

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