Group Wants USDA To Ban Salmonella Strains

A public health group is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ban some Salmonella strains following an outbreak involving drug-resistant Salmonella.

Today, the USDA allows the sales of unprocessed foods tainted with Salmonella saying that cooking tends to kill the dangerous pathogen. But, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) disagrees with this practice, saying that consumers who do not appropriately cook their food should not be responsible for food safety, said Bloomberg Businessweek. Further, noted the Washington nonprofit, food borne outbreaks that involved so-called “superbug,” strains that are antibiotic resistant caused 19,897 people to fall ill, killing 26 more in the years from 1973 through 2009, said Businessweek.

CSPI is now pushing the Obama administration to ban sales of uncooked meat that contain drug-resistant Salmonella pathogens following a recent multi-state outbreak that sickened 20. CSPI is petitioning the agency to ban four Salmonella strains, including a strain involved in a Hannaford Bros. Co. ground beef recall that sickened a number of people in the northeast, said Businessweek.

Both drug resistant and nonresistant Salmonella results in some one million illness annually, costing the U.S. $365 million, according to the CDC, said Businessweek. “We want to think of microbial resistance in food as an emerging issue, but it’s here now,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the consumer group, told Businessweek.

As we have written, the Salmonella strain involved in the Hannaford recall and outbreak, Salmonella Typhimurium, is a multiple drug resistant strain of the food borne illness. The PFGE pattern linked to this outbreak is reported rarely in the U.S., said the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the outbreak strain initially tested as resistant to a number of commonly prescribed antibiotics, including drug classes such as beta-lactams, aminoglycosides, and cephalosporins.

We also wrote, last year, that Salmonella Hadar contaminated turkey burgers sickening 12 people in 10 states. 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 previously.

We routinely discuss antibiotic resistant disease strains, specifically of food borne illness. Resistance is linked to antibiotic misuse and overuse and cause antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body and lead to wide-spread drug resistance. For instance, a historically massive 2011 recall—involving 36 million pounds of tainted ground turkey, led to 111 reported salmonella illnesses, and one death—involved a bacterium resistant to at least four antibiotics typically used in turkey production. Not surprising, given that antibiotics are often given to food animals to quicken growth and compensate for unsanitary, overcrowded conditions.

The government only bans a single pathogen in unprocessed meat: A highly toxic strain of E. coli called O157:H7, noted Businessweek, which pointed out that federal officials intend on adding six more E. coli strains this year

As we’ve mentioned previously, the four strains commonly sought for banning are Salmonella Heidelberg, Newport, Hadar, and Typhimurium. All have been linked with food borne illness outbreaks.

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