Group Petitions USDA on Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella

CPSI Wants to Ban Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella in ChickenOctober 2, 2014 — The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, has petitioned the USDA to declare four strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella as adulterants that will not be allowed on chicken or other foods.

In 2011, the USDA denied a petition from the CSPI asking the agency to declare ground meat and poultry adulterated if it was contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg, Typhimurium, Newport, or Hadar strains.

This declaration would require the USDA to test for the pathogens. The agency would also need to pull food off the market if it tests positive for an adulterant, even if it has not been linked to cases of food poisoning.

The new petition is asking for expanded relief by covering all meat and poultry products, not just ground products.

The group says antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella were linked to at least 2,358 illnesses, 424 hospitalizations, and eight deaths. Since 2011, two outbreaks sickened over 750 people were hospitalized 233 people who ate Foster Farms chicken that was contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg.

The USDA outlawed food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 in 1994 after over 700 people were infected and three people died after eating undercooked hamburgers. In 2011, the agency declared six strains of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli adulterants.

The USDA allows Salmonella on meat and poultry because they say it can be killed by cooking to a proper internal temperature. Compared to beef, relatively few people intentionally eat rare or medium-rare chicken.

Even so, about 19% of food poisoning deaths are attributed to poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). About 1.2 million people are infected with Salmonella every year, including 23,000 who are hospitalized and about 450 who die.

The outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg were resistant to several commonly-prescribed antibiotics. These antibiotics are not typically used to treat blood infections from Salmonella, but antibiotic resistance is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization in infected individuals.

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