US - The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has refiled a petition asking the USDA to declare four antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella to be adulterants in meat and poultry products.
In the petition the CSPI says that antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella Newport, and SalmonellaTyphimurium on meat and poultry were linked to at least 2,358 illnesses, 424 hospitalisations, and eight deaths.
In July, USDA denied a 2011 CSPI petition asking the agency to declare antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains that caused illnesses as adulterants in ground meat and poultry.
The new petition is asking for expanded relief by covering all meat and poultry products, not just ground products.
Since CSPI's 2011 petition, two multi-state outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg linked to non-ground chicken products from Foster Farms have made 750 consumers ill and seen 233 taken to hospital.
The CSPI said that in the second of the outbreaks, USDA allowed contaminated products to remain on the market for nearly 10 months.
CSPI says that USDA, which had initiated recalls in some but not other outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella, uses its authority in an arbitrary and inconsistent way—putting consumers at risk.
"The Foster Farms outbreaks should have served as a wake-up call to USDA, but the agency keeps hitting the snooze button," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal.
"USDA should be testing for antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella to keep contaminated foods out of grocery stores—just as it now can do for the most dangerous strains of E. coli. Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella is no less dangerous and kills twice as many Americans each year."
The fact that USDA has initiated numerous recalls in outbreaks involving antibiotic-resistant Salmonella is further proof that the agency knows that the strains are adulterants capable of causing injury, according to the petition.
One reason USDA said it denied CSPI's 2011 petition was that ordinary cooking is sufficient to kill Salmonella., but CSPI said USDA failed to provide any scientific support for that assertion, and pointed to a number of studies indicating that consumers' cooking, handling, and cleaning practices do not adequately control the hazard at home.
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