Group Wants Drug-Resistant Salmonella Declared A Meat Adulterant

Food safety watchdog group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) just announced that it filed a regulatory petition asking the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deem “f<"">our antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains as adulterants in ground meat and poultry” the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) wrote.

To reclassify these strains as adulterants means that testing would be mandated on these pathogens, enabling products contaminated with the strains to be recalled sooner, noted CIDRAP. The four strains are: Salmonella Heidelberg, Newport, Hadar, and Typhimurium. All have been linked with foodborne illness outbreaks, CIDRAP added.

Salmonella Hadar contaminated turkey burgers earlier this year; 12 people in 10 states were sickened, according to the most recent information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wrote CIDRAP. Also, a 2009 outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Newport was associated with Cargill beef; about 40 people in four states were sickened said the CSPI.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for CSPI, said, “The research shows that antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground meat and poultry is a hazard, and it’s time to move to a more preventive system of controlling the risks at the plant and on the farm,” quoted CIDRAP. The petition notes that in 1994, the USDA deemed Escherichia coli O157:H7 an adulterant via interpretive rules, not rulemaking, and can use this process again to ensure consumer protection of the very dangerous, sometimes deadly, drug-resistant Salmonella pathogen, said CIDRAP. CSPI noted that these drug-resistant strains pose public health risks similar to the deadly E coli O157:H7 pathogen.

A spokeswoman from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), told CIDRAP that when it receives a regulatory petition, it reviews the requests and make a decision, noting that it also considers comments. Once the review is complete, FSIS will advise the petitioner in writing, placing the petition and comments in the FSIS “docket room” and website, said CIDRAP.

Stephen A. Lerner, MD, an infectious disease expert at Wayne State University in Detroit, was quoted in the press release as urging for a reduction to human exposure to drug-resistant Salmonella. “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,” quoted CIDRAP

The CSPI said these resistant strains are linked to antibiotic overuse and misuse in feed animals. As we wrote yesterday, we have long warned about this issue and the implications of these dangerous practices to human populations when livestock is over-treated with these powerful medications. We also recently wrote that criticism of this practice is growing, with some in the Obama administration describing the trend as hazardous.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a number of its allies—including CSPI and Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—also just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put an end to ubiquitous antibiotic use in animal feed, saying this dangerous habit is adding to the issue of drug resistance and superbugs. The lawsuit does not call for any changes in the use of antibiotics to treat ill animals.

The groups asked the FDA to ban nontherapeutic penicillin and tetracycline use in animal feed and to respond to prior, years-long pending petitions seeking this withdrawal with other antibiotics. Pointing out that about 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used by farms to increase animal growth and offset filthy living conditions, the group explained that, because livestock is treated with very low doses of the potent drugs, diseases are not being treated, but bacteria remain, growing and becoming antibiotic resistant. This enables bacteria to outsmart antibiotics and to survive, thrive, and strengthen beyond the ability of existing drugs to eradicate them.

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