May 26/Washington/Center for Science in the Public Interest -- Ground meat and poultry found to contain antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella should be recalled from the marketplace or withheld from commerce, according to a regulatory petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The nonprofit food safety watchdog group wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare four such Salmonella strains as “adulterants” under federal law, making products that contain them illegal to sell.

CSPI is also urging testing for antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground meat and poultry, citing a number of major outbreaks of foodborne illnesses linked to the four strains. Those illnesses are harder for physicians to treat, resulting in longer hospitalizations and increased mortality, according to the group.

“The only thing worse than getting sick from food is being told that no drugs exist to treat your illness,” said CSPI food safety staff attorney Sarah Klein. “And that’s what more consumers will hear if these drug-resistant pathogens keep getting into our meat.”

USDA already recalls products contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella but only after those products have made people sick, according to CSPI. The group’s petition asks the agency to establish a testing regime for these pathogens in ground meat and poultry in the same way that it has for E. coli O157:H7. USDA declared that particularly dangerous strain of E. coli an adulterant in 1994.

“USDA should take action before people get sick, and require controls and testing for these pathogens before they reach consumers,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “The research shows that antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground meat and poultry is a hazard and its time to move to a more preventive system of controlling the risks at the plant and on the farm.”

The four Salmonella strains covered by the petition, Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hadar, and Salmonella Typhimurium, have all been linked to outbreaks.


From the May 26, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.