September 21, 2019

Salmonella Outbreak Has Congresswomen Crying Foul on USDA

Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) are crying foul over recent developments in the Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak and calling for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to halt operations at all of the company’s processing plants until the outbreak ends.

USDAThe Congresswomen say Foster Farms should not be continuing to put chicken that makes people sick on grocery store shelves, that the USDA hasn’t done enough to protect public health, and that the agency’s handling of recent developments in the outbreak were “shameful.”

Some time after 8:00 p.m. (CST) on July 3, the USDA announced Foster Farms had issued a voluntary recall for boneless, skinless chicken products produced in March because one illness had been linked to the product. The recall is the only one the company has issued during the course of this outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people over the last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because it was issued in July for chicken produced in March, the recall is unlikely to affect many retailers but could affect consumers who purchased an froze the chicken.

“Burying news late at night on a holiday weekend may be a time-honored tradition by Washington spin doctors, but it is a shameful way to protect public health,” the representatives said in a press release. “We have been saying for months that tainted chicken does not belong on the grocery stores shelves or the dinner tables of American families. How many more people will fall ill, or even be hospitalized, before USDA does the right thing and cracks down on companies that threaten our families’ health and safety?”

The recall announcement stated the CDC, which has been tracking the outbreak for a year, notified the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of a single illness linked to consumption of the chicken on June 23. Why it took the USDA 10 days to act after is was notified by the CDC and why one illness was enough to prompt a recall but hundreds of others weren’t are points of confusion.

According to a CDC update issued July 4, the outbreak has now sickened 621 people in 29 states. In that update, and in every other announcement it has made about the outbreak, the CDC has stated that  “epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections.” 

However, the USDA’s recall announcement made is sound as though none of those investigations produced sufficient evidence to link the chicken to illnesses. “Until this point, there had been no direct evidence that linked the illnesses associated with this outbreak to a specific product or production lot,” the USDA recall notice stated. “Evidence that is required for a recall includes obtaining case-patient product that tests positive for the same particular strain of Salmonella that caused the illness, packaging on product that clearly links the product to a specific facility and a specific production date, and records documenting the shipment and distribution of the product from purchase point of the case-patient to the originating facility.” That statement describes the process of epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations.

“USDA will claim they do not have the authority to either issue a mandatory recall or shut down Foster Farms,” the Congresswomen said in a statement. “We disagree, but have introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act to ensure there is no confusion. This bill would allow USDA to prevent dangerous, antibiotic-resistant pathogens from ever getting to supermarkets in the first place. House leadership should take up this bill immediately before any more American consumers fall victim.”

Comments

  1. You know nothing will get done. The teabag House will oppose any kind of regulation (because FREEDUMB!!) May every legislator who opposes this get a virulent case of chicken food poisoning.

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