Govt shutdown hampers testing for Salmonella outbreak

Wednesday, 09 October, 2013

The US Government shutdown could not have come at a worse time, with testing for a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 300 people across 18 states severely hampered.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the shutdown is putting many more Americans at risk as key food safety personnel are not at their posts.

The outbreak has been traced back to three Foster Farms facilities in California. Seven strains of Salmonella have been identified as the cause of the illness, including some that may be highly resistant to antibiotic treatment. Of those affected by the outbreak, 42% have been hospitalised - double the rate of what is normally seen in Salmonella outbreaks.

“The number of people we know to be ill is just the tip of the iceberg,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal.

“This outbreak shows that it is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs, and for government websites to go dark. The Salmonella strains are showing resistance to multiple antibiotics, and that means more people are going to the hospital and their infections will be harder for physicians to treat.”

According to NBC News, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recalled 40 staffers to deal with the outbreak.

According to the Foster Farms website, its products are “safe to consume if properly handled and fully cooked”.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family-owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its near 80-year history,” said Foster Farms President Ron Foster.

“We deeply regret any foodborne illness that may be associated with any of our products. Food safety is at the very heart of our business. It is a continuous process of improvement. In addition to collaborating with FSIS [USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service] and CDC, the company has retained national experts in epidemiology and food safety technology to assess current practices and identify opportunities for further improvement.”

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