Center for Science in the Public Interest criticizes USDA's handling of antibiotic-resistant salmonella Heidelberg outbreak linked to ground turkey products, says it could have taken steps to reduce likelihood of contaminated products reaching consumers

WASHINGTON , August 5, 2011 () – Nearly 80 consumers are sick and one has died from a dangerous strain of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg linked to ground turkey products. These strains of Salmonella increase the risk that consumers will face life-threatening illnesses. Infected individuals face longer illnesses, hospitalizations, and more severe consequences.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May to declare this and three other strains that have caused outbreaks and recalls as “adulterants” under the law. That would trigger new testing for those strains and make it less likely that contaminated products reach consumers.

USDA has a responsibility to move proactively to prevent outbreaks, rather than just responding to them once they occur. Both a USDA declaration of adulteration and government and industry testing for Salmonella should be utilized to address this problem. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration could help by stopping the use of antibiotics in healthy farm animals. That would reduce the growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in human medicine.

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