January 19, 2018

CSPI: Declare Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella an Adulterant

Petri DishWhile the Foster Farms chicken Salmonella outbreak continues, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling attention to their 2011 petition to the USDA to declare antibiotic-resistant Salmonella and E. coli adulterants in ground meat and poultry. Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director, said, “Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella is too hot to handle in consumers’ kitchens.” Those resistant pathogens result in longer hospitalizations and an increased death rate.

The hospitalization rate in this outbreak is 42%, about twice as high as most other outbreaks. Four out of the seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in Foster Farms chicken are resistant to antibiotics, which makes infections more difficult to treat. “The number of people we know to be ill is just the tip of the iceberg,” DeWall continued. “This outbreak show that it is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs, and for government web sites to go dark.”

Dr. Stephen A. Lerner, a professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine said about the petition, “Physicians and patients are now facing pathogens that are virtually untreatable. This petition would reduce human exposure to some dangerous drug-resistant Salmonella, which is crucial because our critically-important antibiotics are losing effectiveness and they aren’t being replaced by new ones. We must do all that we can to reduce antibiotic-resistant infections from food.”

Declaring antibiotic-resistant Salmonella and E. coli to be adulterants under federal law would give the USDA authority to keep food contaminated with those pathogens out of the food supply. The petition asks the USDA to conduct microbial testing to identify these bacteria before people get sick. CSPI wants to see antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, Newport, Hadar, and Typhimurium declared adulterants. At the present time, the USDA can only keep raw meat or poultry contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 out of the food supply. Six other non-O157 STEC bacteria are considered adulterants on raw, non-intact beef.

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