Allen Harim chicken plant reopens, yet ‘sanitary conditions’ that closed it remain unknown


Source: Delaware Online

More than 1,000 employees in southern Delaware can return to work now that a chicken processing plant has been allowed to reopen.

Allen Harim Foods’ plant in Harbeson, at the intersection of Delaware routes 9 and 5 west of Lewes, reopened Sunday following a four-day closure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service effectively shut down the plant last Wednesday for “failure to comply with regulatory sanitary conditions requirements,” USDA spokesman Buck McKay said last week.

He confirmed on Tuesday morning that the suspension of USDA inspectors was lifted on Saturday and the plant reopened for business on Sunday.

Officials with Allen Harim have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

The details of the issues flagged by USDA inspectors last week remain unclear, but Delaware Online/The News Journal has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for more information.

On Friday, USDA spokesman Buck McKay said the agency removed its inspectors Feb. 12. That effectively closes the operation because without the inspectors, the product cannot get the USDA stamp of approval and therefore cannot go to market, he said.

More: Battle against chicken wastewater disposal project continues for residents

Allen Harim’s plant slaughters, processes and packages millions of chickens every month and, as of 2016, employed about 1,450 people. The facility has previously come under fire related to environmental and worker safety violations, which have cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, some Sussex County residents have been fighting a plan to spray millions of gallons of treated wastewater from the plant’s processing operations on farm fields north of Milton for disposal instead of dumping it into the nearby creek.